- Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers has signed a multi-year deal allowing Metabilia to market his likeness digitally.
- Metabilia CEO Joe De Perio declined to say how much Ewers could make from this NIL deal, but the firm has gotten a six-figure commitment from a Longhorn booster group of donors.
- Metabilia also has deals with more than 30 elite professional athletes like Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen and Rams defensive end Aaron Donald.
In his latest NIL deal, Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers has partnered with a relatively new technology company called Metabilia for an undisclosed amount to market virtual collectibles about his current and future career.
The three-year-old company will announce Thursday an introductory plan where donors, fans, boosters and investors can sign up for a Member Pass for $30 and purchase items called NFTs that commemorate Ewers’ athletic accomplishments. Those who buy Member Passes in this initial offering can buy digital collectibles for a single dollar and eventually use the platform for exclusive access to purchase or trade for actual physical, Ewers-autographed memorabilia like posters, pictures or even some game-used items like his cleats.
An NFT is a non-fungible token that’s a piece of digital data stored on a blockchain, making it verifiable with an online record of business transactions.
So why pick Ewers to market his name, image and likeness?
The redshirt freshman was once the No. 1 recruit in the country. He transferred from Ohio State, where he got in for just two snaps, and has played only five quarters for Texas. He suffered a sprained clavicle in the loss to Alabama and sat out the next three games. He’s expected to be available for Saturday’s game against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, but coach Steve Sarkisian has not disclosed his starter.
“He has the makings of a guy who can excel at every level and play on Sundays,” Metabilia CEO and co-founder Joe De Perio told the American-Statesman on Wednesday. “Our view is we want to partner with athletes who are going to be great and sell their digital collectibles. NFTs have been around for years. The best way to think about it is it’s a digital baseball card. Member holders can keep it or resell it for a profit.”
The company, which is one of a handful in this field, has four design artists who can produce Ewers digital collectibles. These NFTs could range from renderings of him, arcade games, a comic book collectible, animation to artwork. Six times a year, Member Pass holders get an additional digital collectible, which they can collect or sale. Deloitte Global estimates sports NFTs could generate more than $2 billion in sales this year. That would be more than double the previous year’s revenue.
It’s a very new market, and Metabilia is getting in on the ground floor. De Perio’s “I Got It Holdings Corporate,” which does business at Metabilia, has no ties with the University of Texas and no employees who are UT graduates.
The privately held firm has multi-year memorabilia partnerships with NFL and NBA franchises and is digitizing the artifacts within the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It has already partnered with more than 30 pro athletes, including NFL players like Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen and Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald, as well as the Chiefs, Chargers and Bengals and the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. It plans to market other UT athletes as well as those around the country. Metabilia also works with DraftKings Marketplace as does another NFT firm called “Autograph,” co-founded by Tom Brady.
To create momentum around the launch, Metabilia announced that the company and Ewers have secured a six figure-plus commitment from a prominent alumni group to purchase a significant portion of Quinn’s initial Member Pass drop. De Perio declined to name the group or put a specific amount on what Ewers can make, but he thinks it’s significant.
De Perio’s hoping to sell “somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand” Member Passes this week alone.
Any purchases made specifically by Texas donors will go directly to Ewers without Metabilia taking a cut. If a booster, say, bought 30,000 Member Passes for $30 a pop, the company has a multi-year agreement with Ewers that Metabilia would not take any fees up to that level. He would be paid in cash, not cryptocurrency.
Those nondonors and secondary traders who buy passes for $30 could sell them, say, for $40, and Metabilia would split the profit with Ewers. The company is clearly hoping to deal with a high volume of sales.
“I am excited about the launch of my digital collectibles,” Ewers said in a statement. “It is a great way for all members of the Texas football community to be a part of my journey. I am thrilled to partner with Metabilia who is one of the prominent companies in the digital collectibles space. This is an exciting time in my football life and this partnership will allow fans to share in the excitement.”
The company has already had discussions with other Longhorns athletes, but De Perio declined to name them. He did say the company will work with other college athletes, but only the Longhorns in the Big 12, and is currently talking with five other schools.
“Our view is if the boosters of UT take to the program, I can’t see us working with other universities in the Big 12 in the near future,” De Perio said. “I want to really dig in with UT. I want to hunt where there are doves.”
So no Aggies or Sooners?
“Let’s just say if this works with UT, I’d like to stick with them,” he said. “You can understand the ramifications on recruiting down the road. Our lawyers are good at following the evolving law.”
This venture could make Nick Saban’s head explode, but De Perio said, “I think ultimately finding a way to get capital from the fans and boosters into athletes’ hands is conducive to all parties. A booster, rather than write a check, can buy 100,000 NFTs.
“Say Quinn gets drafted in the first round and goes on to great things in the NFL. That booster can resell the NFTs in the public market when Quinn is the next … Pat Mahomes? Hopefully his ceiling is even higher than Pat Mahomes. Quinn’s got the arm, he’s got the size. He looked good in that first quarter against Alabama.”
De Perio, 44, was once a premed major at Brown University but dropped out of medical school to work in finance before he began this start-up enterprise.
According to a Buffalo News story in June, De Perio is accused in a lawsuit of defrauding investors of another company he co-founded, SportBLX, which sought to “tokenize” and “sell shares” of professional athletes as collectibles and investment vehicles. He told the newspaper he believes the lawsuit against him and the company in Manhattan federal court has no merit, will be dismissed and has nothing to do with Metabilia or Allen. De Perio told the Statesman he is “no longer involved with SportBLX” but believes a countersuit has been filed.
Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said he doesn’t know a lot about the deal, but said, “It sounds fantastic.”
“Anything that helps the student-athlete is good,” Del Conte said. “For me, I like holding tangible items in my hand, but young people seem to be gravitating toward that area. To me, it’s like ‘Total Recall’ the movie (a 1990 film about memories implanted in the main character’s brain). All I can think of is Arnold Schwarzenegger. I know Facebook is building a building here for Metaverse. Athletes have a great entrepreneurial spirit now.”
De Perio added that he has had “friendly conversations” with Texas administrators about incorporating Longhorns marks and logos in future collectibles. Del Conte said he couldn’t speak to that possibility.
“We’ve had some great initial conversations with them,” De Perio said. “Our goal is to work with them going forward. I think they’re very forward-thinking.”