Jared Casey’s heroics for Kansas football against Texas help lead to NIL opportunity
LAWRENCE — Jared Casey is sitting at a table Tuesday inside an Applebee’s in Lawrence, running through his lines.
“I’m going to Applebee’s,” Casey says into a camera. “You’ve always got to go for two,” he tries out. “So, how has my life changed since I made the catch?” he asks.
There’s some awkwardness in Casey’s delivery, and at one point he put a fry in his mouth and didn’t eat it because he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to, but nothing unexpected for someone who’s shooting footage for a commercial for the first time. As time progresses, and those shooting the commercial encourage him to be more animated, it’s clear he begins to understand more and more what’s being asked of him. He has fun with the facial expressions and moves he’s directed to do, one after the other.
Just a few days earlier, Casey was a little-known walk-on with Kansas’ football team. Then, this past Saturday against Texas, the redshirt freshman caught the pass in the end zone on the two-point conversion that delivered the Jayhawks a 57-56 victory in overtime against the Longhorns. A viral video helped propel his story even further into the national conversation. And Tuesday, he’s getting a taste of what name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities can provide.
“It’s great to be able to come here and shoot a commercial like that,” Casey, who admitted doing so is tougher and takes longer than he initially anticipated, told The Topeka Capital-Journal during a break. “It’s going to be pretty cool to see, once they get it all fixed up and everything and yeah, it’s a great experience for sure.”
Casey expected that NIL would become a part of the college landscape at some point, especially when state legislatures got involved to the extent they did. The Plainville, Kansas native just didn’t think he’d be one of the athletes who’d do much with it. What happened Saturday in Austin, Texas led him to attend a NIL meeting Sunday that he otherwise likely wouldn’t have had a reason to go to.
Ryan Entz, a creative director with Thrive Restaurant Group who helped run the shoot Tuesday, said the footage they use will be shared on social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram. The organization owns a number of the Applebee’s locations in Kansas. This is a local play they’re making, not something Applebee’s is doing nationally.
Entz has enjoyed having the opportunity to work with college athletes on NIL, and said they’ve worked with Wichita State athletes and even one from Kansas State. He hopes to have something to share from Casey’s shoot by the end of the week. Casey’s end of the deal, according to Casey, is $1,000 cash and $1,000 in Applebee’s gift cards.
“(Casey) just has such a great story,” Entz said after the shoot. “I mean, KU beating Texas is great, and then a walk-on who is working hard every day and might not get a chance ever to see the field ... does something like this that’s so incredible, it’s just a good feel good story and so we just wanted to … I think we saw on Twitter, actually, people saying, ‘Jared Casey should never have to pay for another meal again.’ And we thought, ‘You know what? With the new NIL agreements, we can take care of that for him.’”
Casey, whose parents were there Saturday and Tuesday, hasn’t had the chance much to see what kind of reception he’d get from other students if he walked through campus. Considering his online classes and the fact he mostly just goes to the football facility and back home, those opportunities haven’t come up much. When he’s been stopped a couple times for pictures, that hasn’t been on campus.
Casey said his teammates have been having fun with him given everything, and giving him a hard time. If he walks into a room someone may say, “Oh, excuse me, excuse me,” and back out of the way. If he says something, he might hear in response, “Yes, sir,” or something along those lines.
But Casey is confident they know he’s not going to let the extra attention distract him from his responsibilities. He still approaches practices and lifting sessions the same way he always has.
Despite so much going on around him, one of Casey’s highlights was actually playing Xbox on Monday night with friends from back home who he hadn’t had the chance to talk to since the Texas game ended. When asked about that viral video that played over his shoulder on a TV as he delivered his lines Tuesday, Casey acknowledged what it meant to him while looking ahead to the upcoming game against TCU as well.
“I’ve watched it multiple times,” said Casey, who plans to visit Plainville in a few weeks. “I’ve watched the KU call on the game multiple times. Still feels surreal, but … got to focus … manage the time between still obviously a really big moment for KU and for me, but … moving on toward the next week.”
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.