Lawrence High grad and KU linebacker Cole Mondi one of the country’s first walk-ons to capitalize on NCAA’s new NIL rules

Lawrence High linebacker Cole Mondi celebrates stopping Washburn Rural quarterback Cooper Carlgren for no gain during the second quarter on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019 at Lawrence High School.

Earlier this week, Kansas linebacker and Lawrence native Cole Mondi became one of the country’s first walk-ons to capitalize on the NCAA’s new name, image and likeness rules.

The former Lawrence High football star who is in his first year with the KU football program agreed to an NIL deal with 23rd Street Brewery.

The details of the deal are still being finalized, but Brewery owner Matt Llewellyn said Mondi was one of the first people he thought of when he heard about the NCAA opening up NIL channels starting July 1.

As luck would have it, Llewellyn was one of the first people Mondi thought of, too.

In fact, when Llewellyn reached out to Mondi about a partnership via text message, Mondi responded quickly and told him that he was in the process of working up a proposal to send to Llewellyn.

Mondi’s Lawrence roots made him a natural fit for Llewellyn, who himself is a Lawrence High graduate and a prolific supporter of a number of community-based organizations and events.

“It is all about the local kids,” Llewellyn said. “That’s just me. I’ve always thought Cole was a bigger deal than even Cole probably thought he was. I’m just excited for him to represent me and the Brewery.”

When asked for the details of their partnership, Lewellyn said the two reached a gentleman’s agreement about fair compensation for Mondi to push some social media posts in support of 23rd Street Brewery. They also talked about possibly teaming up to do a radio advertisement together in the future.

“Let’s just say that Cole’s not going to have to pay for a meal at the Brewery any time soon,” Llewellyn said.

photo by: Shane Jackson

Lawrence High senior Cole Mondi speaks to the crowd during a signing ceremony Wednesday afternoon at LHS on Feb. 3, 2021.

The two met at the brewery on Wednesday night to hash out the details. And Mondi told Llewellyn then that he needed to clear the arrangement with KU’s compliance department.

Dan Beckler, KU’s associate athletic director for PR and strategic communications, told the Journal-World on Thursday that all KU athletes have been told that any name, image and likeness opportunities that come their way need to be reviewed by compliance before becoming official.

Both Mondi and Llewellyn reached out to KU’s compliance office in order to ensure they were staying within the rules.

In the past week, nearly all of KU’s athletic programs have taken steps to provide their players with the latest information on how to handle themselves in the new era of college athletics, where athletes are allowed to make money off of their name, image and likeness.

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self recently showed his team a video covering all of the possibilities and pitfalls associated with the new NIL rules. And Llewellyn said that Mondi told him that the football team was slated to have a team meeting about proper NIL practices this weekend.

After their handshake to seal the deal, Mondi joked with Llewellyn about the potential for his teammates to come calling after they find out about his deal.

“He doesn’t know of any football players who have deals yet,” Llewellyn said. “But he told me, ‘When word gets out that I’ve got one, a bunch of guys might knock on your door.’

“The first thing that came to my mind when I heard about NIL was, I hope I don’t overextend myself with these kids because I’d love to sign them all up,'” Llewellyn added. “I’m all for anyone who wants to endorse the Brewery. But I also realize that’s not realistic, so that’s why I’m focusing on the local kids.”

Mondi is far from the only KU athlete to jump into the NIL game in its first week of existence.

KU basketball players Mitch Lightfoot and Bobby Pettiford both signed endorsement deals with different companies last week. And KU forward Cam Martin also announced a clothing line that bears his name and image with a CM logo created exclusively for him.

Several other college athletes across the country have entered into similar deals, from the smallest endorsement of a local business to a billboard in Times Square in New York City and everything in between.


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