When I was 19, I was forced to make the impossible choice of choosing between my two great passions at the time: skiing and football. I was both an Olympic skier and Colorado Buffs football player, two sports that as it turned out, are diametrically opposed beyond just the skillset required. 

Olympic athletes do not receive a traditional salary for competing in the Olympics, so my Olympic skiing career was made financially possible through endorsements. Meanwhile, my college football career was bound by the NCAA’s “amateurism” rules that prohibit college athletes from accepting commercial sponsorships or endorsements. As a result, when I decided to compete in the Olympics and needed to accept ski endorsements, I was deemed ineligible to play college football by the NCAA, and my college football career was cut short by two years.  

I was devastated. I had worked so hard only to see my football dreams broken by what seemed like an antiquated and convoluted rule. I fought the NCAA with a lawsuit in 2004, testified in congressional hearings, and have been a vocal advocate for student athlete rights ever since. 

So, when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously last year that the NCAA’s restrictions on education-related benefits for college athletes violated antitrust law, and then the NCAA’s board of directors moved to allow college athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL), I was elated. I felt vindicated for myself and for the many other athletes who have lost their eligibility, their scholarships, and their dreams. And I knew that I wanted to support the next generation of student athletes in our new NIL world. 

I co-founded Integrate in 2010 after I retired from sports. I had taken classes at UPenn’s Wharton Business School through an NFL program, began my business career in marketing where I experienced first-hand what was missing in marketing tech, then built a company based on the idea of “integrating,” connecting, and streamlining the marketing technology ecosystem. 

In those 12 years, the world has changed a lot. Being able to promote and benefit from your own name, image, and likeness in today’s landscape of social media, digital content, and digital advertising is a given. That’s why at Integrate, we are supporting college athletes who are walk-on athletes or in lower-profile sports that traditionally don’t receive as much funding, with NIL sponsorships opportunities.  

No 19-year-old should have to endure what I had to endure. 

So, with that said, I’m honored to share the stories of our five College Game Changers and am proud to support them on their journeys:

    Emma Winters 

    Emma is a freshman at Gannon University who hails from Shelby Township, MI and is studying to become a physician assistant. She is a walk-on athlete on Gannon's Acrobatics and Tumbling Team, which is a new and emerging NCAA sport. 

    In high school, she competed in gymnastics, but made the shift to Acrobatics and Tumbling in college. This shift has been a very challenging but rewarding journey and she loves the team atmosphere. 

    Sports has taught her accountability, leadership, resilience, patience, and so much more. “Sports bring individuals, from very different backgrounds, together to work toward a common goal. I've learned to trust others and realize that my team is like family,” said Emma.

    Levi Dorsey

    Levi is a senior walk-on football player at North Carolina State from Louisburg, NC, majoring in business. His college journey has been paved with challenges: his older brother was previously on the NC State football team with him but is suffering from a traumatic brain injury due to a concussion; and his mother – who is his “rock” – was recently diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. 

    But through all this adversity, Levi has learned how to step out of his comfort zone, learn to manage his time, and choose his own path forward. “You really get to know yourself when you’re losing, going through hard times, and standing beside people you love, said Levi.”

    Meiko Pearson

    Meiko is a sophomore division II volleyball player at Missouri S&T from Overland Park, KS, majoring in pre-med. She has also earned her Certified Nursing Aide (CNA) license, and for the past two years, has worked in retirement homes assisting the local elderly community. When she was 7, she and her friends started a rec volleyball league for fun, and Meiko has continued with the sport ever since. 

    Sports has taught her discipline, structure, teamwork, and collaboration. “Managing chaos is a big part of the sport,” said Meiko. 

    Nico Magri

    Nico is a fifth-year graduate student who has been a walk-on football player at the University of Colorado, Boulder and is now in an organizational leadership master’s program. Hailing from Boulder, CU has been the team and university that he has grown up cheering for. However, right when he started at CU, his family experienced financial hardship, but Nico’s family supported his decision to walk on to the CU football team without a scholarship. 

    Sports has taught Nico how to manage his time, determination, commitment, and camaraderie. “The past 4 years have taught me valuable lessons in adaptation, time management, and the necessity of loving what you do,” said Nico. 

    Trey Hurlburt

    Trey is a senior walk-on college basketball player majoring in communications at his hometown university, the University of Nevada Las Vegas. While he initially started out his college basketball career at Division 2 California State University San Marcos, he suffered a sports injury and took time off to recover. He then made the decision to return home and pursue his dream of becoming a UNLV Rebel basketball player. Trey approached the UNLV coaching staff, worked out with the team, and eventually landed a walk-on spot. 

    Sports has taught Trey how to work as a team, communicate, and get the job done. “I have a grind mentality to do anything to make those around me better, said Trey.”