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19 Highest Paid College Athletes in 2023 (+ Their Net Worth)

Highest Paid College Athletes

Historically, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (N.C.A.A.) established regulations that prohibited college athletes from receiving compensation that extended beyond school scholarships and stipends.

However, the landscape of college sports is evolving fast, with new rules that allow student-athletes to be financially compensated for using their personal brand or their name, image, and likeness – often shortened to its acronym NIL.

What is NIL?

NIL is the use of an athlete's name, image, and likeness for promotional purposes, which covers social media, endorsements, and more.  

The Changing Landscape of College Sports

For decades, the N.C.A.A.'s requirements to keep student-athletes at the amateur level was the status quo – until heavy debates began after it became apparent that the significant amounts of money generated by schools and universities never directly benefited the athletes generating the interest and revenue themselves.  

In late 2019, California became the first state to pass a Name, Image, and Likeness Bill, providing collegiate athletes with new control of their brand. In 2021, the Supreme Court made a unanimous decision ruling that the N.C.A.A. could not prohibit modest payments to student-athletes – a decision that punctuated the existing debate. That same year, several more states enacted NIL laws that allow collegiate athletes to profit from the revenue generated by their personal brand.

How We Compiled the List?

Fortunately, with the press and overwhelming interest in the significant amounts of money now available to college or student-athletes, there are many reliable industry and news sources that provide topical data that can be used to curate a list of the highest-paid college athletes in 2023.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association – also known as – the N.C.A.A. - offers the most comprehensive place to start. It is a membership-driven organization that governs intercollegiate athletics across the 1,098 schools defined by its three divisions - categorized based on school size - Divisions 1, 2, and 3. Other insightful news sources that follow the business of collegiate athletics include, in part –

News sites offer supplemental data regarding athletes who are now beginning to find ways to financially benefit from these revised rules and laws  –

  • The Boardroom – The Boardroom provides unrivaled industry access for the sports, music, and entertainment business.
  • The Associated Press - The Associated Press was founded in the mid-1800s and remains an independent and trusted source of factual global news.
  • Reuters – This global news source was founded more than 160 years ago on the principles of integrity and truth.  

Many other websites and news organizations devote featured articles and analyses regarding the newfound potential wealth of college athletes. These, too, were used to refine our data and analysis.

Here are the 19 Highest Paid College Athletes

With Congress and other federal agencies discussing the establishment of college athlete's NIL rights (and the introduction of new legislation), the future remains quite promising to young athletes with dreams of a career as professional athletes.

19. Spencer Rattler

  • Sport: Football.
  • College/University: The University of South Carolina.
  • Earnings Sources: endorsements and local events.
  • Endorsement Deals: local Mercedes Benz Dealer, Garnet Trust.
  • Estimated Earnings: $50,000/year.
  • Estimated Net Worth/NIL Valuation: $1 million.
  • Notable Achievements: As a high school senior, he starred in QB1 – a Netflix documentary. He received more than a dozen offers to play for Division 1 schools.
  • Social Media Following: Spencer has nearly 355,000 Instagram followers.

Spencer Rattler is a college quarterback who began his career playing for Oklahoma. Rattler played in the 2022 Gator Bowl – losing in a competitive match to Notre Dame. The team ranked in the A.P. poll for the first time in ten years.  

18. Jared McCain

  • Sport: Basketball.
  • College/University: Duke University.
  • Earnings Sources: various endorsement deals.
  • Endorsement Deals: Champs Sports.
  • Estimated Earnings: N/A.
  • Estimated Net Worth/NIL Valuation: $1.1 million.
  • Notable Achievements: named California's Gatorade player of the Year in high school and considered Duke's highest recruit.
  • Social Media Following: McCain has more than 2 million TikTok followers, who follow his trademark blue nails – a nod to the Blue Devils.

Jared McCain is a shooting guard who plays for the Duke Blue Devils. As a five-star recruit, McCain was a member of the gold-medal-winning FIBA U18 Americas Championship in 2022.

17. Jordan Travis

  • Sport: Football.
  • College/University: Florida State University.
  • Earnings Sources: endorsement deals.
  • Endorsement Deals: Leaf Trading Cards, Beats by Dre, Tallahassee Ford, Hotel Indigo, Next Gen Camps, DirecTV, Cameo.
  • Estimated Earnings: $100,000/year.
  • Estimated Net Worth/NIL Valuation: $1.1 million.
  • Notable Achievements: holds the school record with 16 consecutive games accounting for multiple touchdowns, the longest A.C.C. streak in the past two decades.
  • Social Media Following: Travis has more than 100,000 social media followers on Instagram plus other platforms.

Jordan Travis, who is a Sunshine State native, is the F.S.U. Seminoles starting quarterback but began at the University of Louisville.

16. Evan Stewart

  • Sport: Football.
  • College/University: Texas A&M.
  • Earnings Sources: endorsements as an elite football star.
  • Endorsement Deals: Coach, NOCCO USA.
  • Estimated Earnings: $100 - $200,000.
  • Estimated Net Worth/NIL Valuation: $1.2 million.
  • Notable Achievements: joined the Aggies as an early enrollee.
  • Social Media Following: 2 million TikTok  and 100K+ Instagram followers.

Evan Stewart was born in Frisco, Texas, and now plays wide receiver for the A&M Aggies, who has gained much attention for his athletic prowess and amazing on-field catches.

15. Quinn Ewers

  • Sport: Football.
  • College/University: The University of Texas.
  • Earnings Sources: various endorsement deals.
  • Endorsement Deals: Aston Martin-Dallas, Epic Games, Ryl Tea, Panini America.
  • Estimated Earnings: N/A.
  • Estimated Net Worth/NIL Valuation: $1.2 million.
  • Notable Achievements: he participated in the 2021 Elite 11 competition.
  • Social Media Following: Quinn Ewers has more than 200,000 Twitter and Instagram followers.

Quinn Ewers, who was born in San Antonio, Texas, began his career playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes but is now the starting quarterback for the University of Texas Longhorns and was the #1 player in the 2022 recruiting high school class.

14. JJ McCarthy

  • Sport: Football.
  • College/University: The University of Michigan.
  • Earnings Sources: NIL endorsements.
  • Endorsement Deals: Tom Brady's Apparel Line, Leaf Trading Cards, The M Den, and Alo Yoga.
  • Estimated Earnings: $1 – 2 million.
  • Estimated Net Worth/NIL Valuation: $1.3 million.
  • Notable Achievements: he became the Wolverine starter in his sophomore year and shared NIL earnings with teammates who kept him safe on the field.
  • Social Media Following: McCarthy has more than 300,000 followers on Instagram and other platforms.

Jonathan James McCarthy is the starting Q.B. for the University of Michigan's Wolverines in his junior year. While he grew up an O.S.U. fan, he was slighted by the school and selected Michigan to play college ball. McCarthy led his high school team to three state title games – winning the 2018 championship game.

13. Drake Maye

  • Sport: Football.
  • College/University: The University of North Carolina.
  • Earnings Sources: Profile endorsements and deals.
  • Endorsement Deals: Jimmy's Seafood, Bose, TABLE, Campus Mogul, Corcoran HM Properties, Next Gen Camps.
  • Estimated Earnings: $100,000.
  • Estimated Net Worth/NIL Valuation: $1.3 million.
  • Notable Achievements: Named A.C.C. Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year – landing 10th in the Heisman Trophy race. Broke U.N.C.'s school record for single-season passing yards.
  • Social Media Following: Maye's social media following exceeds 70,000.

U.N.C.'s quarterback, Drake Maye, was born in North Carolina and won the MaxPreps North Carolina player of the year. His father, Mark, also played Q.B. for the Tar Heels in the mid-1980s.

12. Hansel Emmanuel

  • Sport: Basketball.
  • College/University: Austin Peay Governors after playing for Northwestern State University.
  • Earnings Sources: endorsements from Global and Dominican Republic Brands.
  • Endorsement Deals: Gatorade, T-Mobile, Banreservas, Adidas.
  • Estimated Earnings: N/A
  • Estimated Net Worth /NIL Valuation: $1.4 million.
  • Notable Achievements: plays elite ball despite missing one arm.
  • Social Media Following: has over 1.5 million followers on social media as a viral sensation.

Hansel Emmanuel was born in the Dominican Republic. He played high school ball in his native country as well as Kissimmee, Florida. As a college basketball player, he made a sensation with remarkable athleticism as a basketball guard despite playing with only one arm.

11. Sunisa Lee

  • Sport: Artistic Gymnast
  • College/University: Auburn University
  • Earnings Sources: endorsements income.
  • Endorsement Deals: C.L.I.F. Bar & Company, Crocs, The Lego Group, Amazon, Invisalign, Gatorade, and Target.
  • Estimated Earnings: N/A
  • Estimated Net Worth/NIL Valuation: $1.5 million.
  • Notable Achievements: the 10th most decorated American gymnast and has partnered with G.K. Elite to create her own brand of leotards.
  • Social Media Following: has over 3.5 million followers on social media., with about half on Instagram alone.

Sunisa 'Suni' Lee is an Olympic gymnast who has won medals in the all-around and un-even bar events. After the 2020 Olympics, she competed on Dancing with the Stars as the 7th Olympic gymnast to be featured as a contestant. Suni Lee is the first Hmong-American Olympian and Asian-American to win an all-around Olympic medal.

10. Angel Reese

  • Sport: Woman's Basketball.
  • College/University: Louisiana State University.
  • Earnings Sources: endorsements and the monetization of social media.
  • Endorsement Deals: McDonald's, Coach, Reebok, Wingstop, PlayStation, Raising Canes, Outback Steakhouse and Amazon.
  • Estimated Earnings: $200,000/year.
  • Estimated Net Worth/NIL Valuation: $1.6 million.
  • Notable Achievements: She is an All-American, ranked the second-best player in her class by ESPN, and held many N.C.A.A. single-season records.
  • Social Media Following: She has more than 2 million social media followers across pla.

Angel Reese, whose nickname is Bayou Barbie, is an award-winning college basketball player who plays for the L.S.U. Tigers. Reese, who is 6'3" and plays as a power forward, has also participated as part of the U.S. Team that won a silver medal in 2023 at the F.I.B.A. Americup.

9. Marvin Harrison Jr.

  • Sport: Football.
  • College/University: Ohio State University.
  • Earnings Sources: various endorsements as a college athlete and influencer.
  • Endorsement Deals: ZOA Energy Drink, Grippos, Dr. Teal's Epsom Salt.
  • Estimated Earnings: $50 – 100,000/year.
  • Estimated Net Worth/NIL Valuation: $1.6 million.
  • Notable Achievements: led St. Joseph's prep to three consecutive state football championships.
  • Social Media Following: Marvin Harrison Jr has more than a half-million social media followers across several platforms.

Marvin Darnel Harrison, Jr., like his Super Bowl champ/wide receiver dad, is a talented college football wide receiver who plays for the Buckeyes. Harrison, who is eligible for the 2024 draft, holds the Philadelphia Catholic League's record for touchdown and receiving yards as a wide receiver.

8. Bo Nix

  • Sport: Football.
  • College/University: The University of Oregon, after transferring from Auburn University.
  • Earnings Sources: high-profile endorsement deals.
  • Endorsement Deals: Milo's Sweet Tea, Kendall Auto Group.
  • Estimated Earnings: $500,000 - $1 million.
  • Estimated Net Worth/NIL Valuation: $1.7 million.
  • Notable Achievements: in 2022-23, Nix led the Ducks to a 10 and 3 season.
  • Social Media Following: with more than a million followers, Bo Nix has one of the largest social media followings across platforms.

Bo Nix is currently the University of Oregon's starting quarterback, playing in his fifth year. He is the son of Patrick Nix, a former Auburn University star Q.B. Nix is among this year’s favorite players to win the Heisman Trophy for the 2023-2024 season.

7. Livvy Dunne

  • Sport: Gymnastics.
  • College/University: Louisiana State University.
  • Earnings Sources: endorsements as a gymnast/influencer.
  • Endorsement Deals: American Eagle, Vuori, Grubhub, ESPN, and Forever 21.
  • Estimated Earnings: $1 million.
  • Estimated Net Worth/NIL Valuation: $2.3 million.
  • Notable Achievements: Livvy Dunne was a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model and has disclosed she earned more than $500K on a single post.
  • Social Media Following: Dunne has millions of followers on Instagram and another 7.5+ million on TikTok.

Louisiana State University gymnast and now recent grad Olivia Dunne found her fame skyrocketed after establishing a social media presence by posting pre-match moments. Dunne continues to dominate, with amazing staying power as a young athlete.

6. Shedeur Sanders

  • Sport: Football.
  • College/University: The University of Colorado, although he played for F.A.U. and Jackson State University as well.
  • Earnings Sources: revenue from NIL endorsements.
  • Endorsement Deals: Beats by Dre, Oikos, Mercedes Benz, Tom Brady's apparel line – B.R.A.D.Y., Gatorade, and more.
  • Estimated Earnings: based on current and potential NIL deals, Sedeur could earn up to $5 million per year.
  • Estimated Net Worth: estimated to be $2 - $3 million.
  • Notable Achievements: In his first C.U. game, he broke the school's passing record (with 510 yards) in the Buffaloes' win over T.C.U. – a ranked competitor. He was also the first H.B.C.U. Player to sign a Name, Image, and Likeness deal with Gatorade in 2022.
  • Social Media Following: has more than 2 million social media followers.

Shedeur Sanders is the youngest son of one of the N.F.L.'s best running backs of all time – Deion Sanders, who happens to be C.U.'s head football coach. Shedeur Sanders is currently the University of Colorado's starting Q.B. and a Heisman Trophy contender.

5. Travis Hunter

  • Sport: Football.
  • College/University: The University of Colorado, after transferring from Jackson State (along with teammate Shedeur Sanders).
  • Earnings Sources: endorsements with high-profile companies.
  • Endorsement Deals: American Eagle, Nike, So Hoodie, the Michael Strahan Brand, Black, and N.X.T.R.N.D.
  • Estimated Earnings: $700,000 - 1 million.
  • Estimated Net Worth /NIL Valuation: $2.5 million.
  • Notable Achievements: he plays offense as a wide receiver and defense as a cornerback, and in his first C.U. game, he took 147 snaps from center.
  • Social Media Following: Hunter has more than 1.1 million Instagram followers.

Travis Hunter is a multi-talented college football player with the University of Colorado's Buffaloes. Hunter, who was born in West Palm Beach, is a fan of Yeezy, owning more than ten pairs. Deion Sanders gifted him an expensive Roles diamond watch. He is eligible for the 2025 N.F.L. draft.

4. Caleb Williams

  • Sport: Football.
  • College/University: The University of Southern California.
  • Earnings Sources: NIL endorsement deals.
  • Endorsement Deals: Dr. Pepper, Playstation, AC+ION Water, Beats by Dre, Athletic Brewing Company, Neutrogena, and United Airlines.
  • Estimated Earnings: N/A.
  • Estimated Net Worth/NIL Valuation: $2.5 million.
  • Notable Achievements:  Williams was the Gatorade Football Player of the Year as a high school sophomore. He won the 2022 Heisman Trophy after smashing several school records.
  • Social Media Following: Williams has more than ½ million followers across various social media platforms.

Caleb Sequan Williams first began playing college football for the University of Oklahoma's Sooners as a backup for another college athlete who makes the highest-paid college athlete list – Spencer Rattler. He is a bit of a fashion icon, having donned Gucci when receiving his Heisman and participating in the March HugoBoss show.

3. Mikey Williams

  • Sport: Basketball.
  • College/University: The University of Memphis.
  • Earnings Sources: Endorsements with high-profile companies.
  • Endorsement Deals: Puma, Beats by Dre, Nike, PSD Underwear.
  • Estimated Earnings: $ 200 – 300,000/year.
  • Estimated Net Worth: $3 - 5 million.
  • Notable Achievements: Was the first high school basketball player to ink an NIL deal (Puma) and scored 46 points in his high school debut.
  • Social Media Following: Williams had more than 3 million followers on Instagram before he was out of high school.

Michael Anthony William plays for the A.C.C. Memphis Tigers, playing under the legendary Penny Hardaway, despite being offered various scholarships to play basketball at a few H.B.C.U. schools. Williams, who has some serious legal issues, found his exceptional basketball skills and magnetic personality propelled him to the heights of sports celebrity.

2. Arch Manning

  • Sport: Football.
  • College/University: The University of Texas.
  • Earnings Sources: endorsement deals.
  • Endorsement Deals: Panini America – which was donated to charity, for now.
  • Estimated Earnings: $1 – 2 million.
  • Estimated Net Worth/NIL Valuation: $3.8 million.
  • Notable Achievements: he donated his first NIL deal to Ronald McDonald House in Austin, TX
  • Social Media Following: Arch Manning has more than a quarter million followers on social media.

Charles Arch Manning is also a member of football royalty and a red-shirted freshman playing for the U.T. Longhorns. While his dad Cooper's career was cut short by surgery, his grandfather and namesake – as well as Uncles Eli and Peyton, have certainly made a name for themselves in the N.F.L. While eligible by law, his family has limited the NIL deals allowed until he has had a chance to establish himself as a legitimate football player.

1. Bronny James

  • Sport: Basketball.
  • College/University: The University of Southern California.
  • Earnings Sources: endorsements as an elite athlete.
  • Endorsement Deals: Beats by Dre, Nike, PSD Underwear.
  • Estimated Earnings: $5.9 million.
  • Estimated Net Worth/NIL Valuation: $6 - 12 million.
  • Notable Achievements: in 2023, as a high school senior, he was honored as a McDonald's All-American player.
  • Social Media Following: Has 7+ million Instagram followers and had more than 1 million on the first day he opened his account in May 2019.

The richest and most famous college athlete is likely Bronny James – the son of basketball legend Lebron James. Bronny James' name recognition and family connections have made him basketball royalty even before making his mark at U.S.C. as a Trojan.

Andrew Gosselin CPA

Written by Andrew Gosselin CPA

Andrew Gosselin, CPA is a former senior strategy consultant for a global, multi-billion-dollar software company. He is the Senior Contributor / Editor at MoneyInc, and he holds degrees in accounting, finance, and international business from Bentley University, where he played varsity basketball and was the Lead Tutor of the accounting and finance curriculum for the Bentley Athletic Department. Andrew was named a President's Academic Scholar and was inducted into the Falcon Society, a distinction awarded by the Bentley faculty and his peers for being among those with the highest achievement and abilities in his graduating class.

Read more posts by Andrew Gosselin CPA

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