Josh Jackson is selling clothes and coffee. The goal is wholesale, not retail.
The cornerback hit the turf running after his January announcement he was bypassing his senior season at Iowa and making himself eligible for next week’s NFL draft.
First, Jackson signed with the VaynerSports agency. Before he got to the NFL Combine in February, he had a website that sells a line of T-shirts and headwear. One of his logos is an image of a player making a leaping one-handed stab of a football, a la Jackson’s third interception of the game in the Hawkeyes’ win over Ohio State last November.
Last month, Jackson went into business with Hawaiian Isles Kona Coffee Company as a spokesperson. An Iowa player from Texas promoting a Hawaiian product is a new wrinkle.
“His agency put something out on Twitter that they were looking for non-alcoholic brands looking for endorsements,” said Glenn Boulware, the vice president/chief operating officer of Hawaiian Isles Enterprises.
“This is a new thing for us. We’re a pretty small family-owned business, second-generation. We have 190 employees. My father started it in the early ‘80s. We’re trying to get known in other parts of the country.”
Of eight various mock drafts I perused Wednesday, Jackson was projected as a first-rounder between the 18th and 30th picks in six. Boulware is drawn to that, of course, but maintains there is a natural connection between the company and Jackson.
“We’re in over 2,000 grocery stores on the West Coast and Texas,” Boulware said. “A big thing for us is being in U.S. military commissaries worldwide. Josh’s father is a veteran.
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Jackson posted a short video about Hawaiian Isles on his Facebook page, saying “I’m able to build relationships and be a part of such a prestige group, but most importantly I’m able to start my day off with a cup of Kona coffee.”
Jackson’s agent is Tommy Sims, a four-year defensive back and a senior captain at Tennessee in the 1980s. VaynerSports is representing eight potential draft picks this year. Five are cornerbacks, including Chris Jones of Nebraska and Christian Campbell of Penn State.
“We didn’t plan it that way,” said VaynerSports executive vice president/marketing Justin Giangrande.
Jackson is the only one in the group who was invited to be in the “Green Room” at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for the draft, which will hold its first round next Thursday night.
Many former Hawkeye players have been represented in the NFL by agents Neil Cornrich and Jack Bechta. They’re low-key agents, meat and potatoes. VaynerSports is a different animal. It’s an offshoot of VaynerMedia, a full-service digital agency that says it specializes in modern video production, media planning and distribution, and influencer marketing.
The CEO is Gary Vaynerchuk. He has a YouTube channel with daily vlogs. Some of the video titles: “How Successful People Think.” “Figuring Out Who You Are.” “Watch This and Change Your 2018.” Almost 1.3 million people subscribe to the channel.
Vaynerchuk, Sims and Giangrande are in a video shot in an Indianapolis hotel room while they excitedly watched the telecast of the NFL Combine as Jackson and some of their other cornerback clients ran the 40-yard dash.
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“Accessibility and insight,” Giangrande described it. “We’re big believers in social media.”
At some point soon, this will come down to football. Jackson either becomes an NFL player of importance or he doesn’t.
“Based on his commitment to preparation and things he has to do in the NFL,” Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker said Tuesday, “it’s a little bit different game than it is in college. But he does have a lot of ability, and I think he has a lot of room to grow. I think one more year here would have maybe helped him grow a little bit more, but we understand the process that he went through.
“I think he’ll be a guy that will last 10 years.”
Ah, but injuries happen in the NFL, and happen, and happen. The average career-length is 3.3 years. So, starting with selling T-shirts and Hawaiian coffee, get that money while it’s there.
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