Since last summer, numerous college athletes have taken advantage of new NCAA legislation that allows them to profit from their name, image and likeness.
There may not be a more fitting NIL partnership, however, than the one Colorado offensive lineman Tommy Brown has with Shinesty, which sells unique clothing, including a line of “underthangs,” and has the following slogan on the company Twitter page: “Stay weird and shine on.”
Naturally, Shinesty partnered with the 6-foot-7, 330-pound Brown to model the underthangs. When the modeling photos were released last month, CU fans and his teammates got a unique look at the Alabama transfer.
“That was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in my life,” CU quarterback JT Shrout said. “He told me, ‘I’ve got an underwear model deal, dude,’ and I was like, ‘No, you didn’t. What are you talking about?’ He sent me that video before he posted it and I was laughing my butt off. That was good.”
Per CU policy, Brown and other newcomers weren’t allowed to conduct interviews with the media this spring, but coaches and teammates spoke highly of a young man who has proven to be weird and funny as he shines on the field.
“He’s my jokester. He’s been great,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said. “He came in with a great work ethic about just getting to work and being very responsible. And now he’s grown to being one of the popular guys on the team.”
Last season was, without question, a disappointment for the Buffs (4-8, 3-6 Pac-12) and the offensive line, in particular, went through its share of trials. In December, Dorrell hired Kyle DeVan as the new offensive line coach and that has been a boost for the Buffs. So has the addition of Brown, who arrived in Boulder in January and is expected to play a significant role this season. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
A four-star recruit coming out of Mater Dei (Calif.) High School in 2018, Brown played 28 games, with one start, in four seasons at Alabama, winning a national title in 2020.
This spring, Brown played left guard with the first team and is projected as a starter in the fall.
“Tommy’s been a great addition, he really has,” said DeVan, who added Brown could also play tackle. “He has a great foundation coming from his previous school and he’s obviously worked with some really good offensive line coaches. So his knowledge of the game has really helped the younger guys. He’s been a great leader in that sense because we’ve got older guys and we’ve got younger guys. When you have a positive leader like Tommy, it’s a good thing for the room. And then you bring a big guy that’s strong and physical, he helps the Buffaloes become better.”
CU had a very good left guard last year in Kary Kutsch, who could land with an NFL team as a late-round draft pick or free-agent signee this weekend. Brown, however, has made that transition fairly seamless, especially for left tackle Jake Wiley.
“Kary helped me and he’s just as smart as Tommy,” Wiley said. “Tommy’s real smart, too. We’ll go out there and if I have a question for him, I’ll ask him. If he has a question for me, he’ll ask me. … It’s definitely fun playing with different people.”
Brown’s size, knowledge and skill level should make him a key part of the line, but it’s certainly not the only positive he’s brought to the Buffs.
“He’s a really good player, a very good addition for us,” Dorrell said. “But the other part I like, too, is that he’s quietly, in a short period of time, become a popular guy and a guy that everybody enjoys having on the team. … Now he’s a big part of who we are.”
Wiley said Brown is, “A super good dude. He’s what we needed for the O-line.”
Asked what he’s brought to the group, right guard Casey Roddick produced a wide smile and said, “Everything.”
On the field, Roddick said he and Brown fuel each other with energy and competitiveness.
“Tommy is a large human being and will stonewall anybody that comes in front of him,” Roddick said. “Tommy is a physical specimen that we have on our offensive line and I’m glad that he’s on our team.
“If I’m pancaking somebody 25 yards downfield, he’s gonna pancake somebody 30 yards downfield. It’s definitely exciting to have somebody to compete with but also play next to.”
Out of high school, Brown had nearly 20 scholarship offers, choosing Alabama over, among others, Auburn, Florida, Michigan, Oregon – and CU. His talent has impressed his teammates this spring.
“He has really good feet,” senior tight end Brady Russell said. “It’s impressive for how he’s just kind of a monster of a human. He told me the other day he wasn’t allowed to play football until high school because he was too big, so he’s just naturally always been a giant man, but his feet are just incredible, the way they get in the ground and the way he moves people.”
His popularity in the locker room is impressive, too.
Like Shrout, Russell loved Brown’s deal with Shinesty and said it was certainly a good way to break the ice with a new set of teammates.
“It’s like, ‘OK, he’s a normal dude – if that’s normal,’” Russell said with a laugh. “He definitely got adopted in quick.
“I love Tommy. He’s a funny dude. He’s a big ol’ clown, but he’s really good at what he does.”