The decision by the NCAA to allow student-athletes to monetize their names, images and likenesses (NIL) while still in school was a game changer for many. While several high-profile college athletes endeavored to accept commercial offers, others found revenue streams from appearances, signings and their social media accounts.
Five Georgia football players teamed up to take advantage of their newfound NIL privileges to help others and created the DGD Fund, which raises money for five beneficiaries, each selected by one of the five Bulldogs, with all monies equally distributed.
In just three months, the DGD Fund has raised some $66,000 for the ALS Association, the American Brain Tumor Association, Hilinski’s Hope, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Happyfeat.
Quarterback Stetson Bennett IV, who has emerged as one of the leaders of the Bulldogs, is without question the best-known member of the quintet. He’s joined in the initiative by junior snapper Payne Walker, graduate linebacker John Staton IV (who is credited with the initial brainstorm that birthed the DGD Fund), junior tight end John Fitzpatrick and junior offensive lineman Owen Condon.
Four of the players have connections with the Terry College. Bennett is an economics student, Fitzpatrick earned his degree in real estate in May, Condon is studying real estate and finance, and Staton (who graduated from Samford in 2020) is pursuing an Entrepreneurship Certificate.
The DGD Fund came together over the summer and quickly found its footing, raising nearly $20,000 after just a few weeks.
“It’s definitely a surprise,” says Condon, whose chosen beneficiary is the ALS Foundation. “It’s been cool to see how people are willing to give back to ideas and charities they can get behind. We’re excited to see how far we can take it and see how much farther it can go.”
“We never had a specific goal going in,” adds Fitzpatrick, who selected the American Brain Tumor Association for his fundraising efforts. “We just wanted to raise as much money as possible for these charities.”
Although the players are the face of the DGD Fund, other students are pitching in. The Georgia players enlisted Grace Hopkins, a senior majoring in marketing at the Terry College, to spearhead the group’s social media presence and graphic design. Hopkins says based on the work the players have put in, she grew more ardent as the semester advanced.
“All five of the guys are just really amazing people and have great connections and outreach,” she says. “So I’m not surprised how quickly it has grown, just based on the kind of people they are and the dedication they have to helping others with their platform. It’s been super awesome to watch.
“I believe in what the DGD Fund does and it’s something I’ve been passionate about this semester once I learned about it.”
“It’s been fun working with the original five and then the other people who have joined us,” says Condon, who adds the group meets once a week during the football season. “We work well together and have a good time planning for the future and seeing where it can go. It’s always fun giving back whenever possible, so that’s a great part of it.”
Fitzpatrick assents that having Bennett – known far and wide as “The Mailman” – attached to the initiative has led to heightened interest.
“I definitely think he’s been a factor,” says Fitzpatrick of Bennett. “He’s done a tremendous job this season and obviously with his name that has helped us a ton. He has a large following, so as we continue to work together it’s only going to help us more.”
When the football season ends, the DGD Fund will continue with plans to transition into a community outreach resource and the players who will be on the 2022 edition of the Bulldogs plan to keep the ball rolling.
“Now we’re at the point where we’re figuring out different kinds of events we can do in the community where it’s not just calling donors,” says Fitzpatrick. “We want to do stuff in the community to help out.”