- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Move over, college and high school athletes. The middle schoolers are now entering the NIL game.

Xavier Perez, a golfing wunderkind at just 12 years old, recently signed a name, image and likeness deal with Cobra Puma

The sports equipment company announced Friday that it was partnering with Perez, whose nickname is “Xeve.” 

“Xeve’s personality, talent and love for the game is inspiring, and we’re thrilled to welcome him to the Cobra Puma Golf family,” Dan Ladd, the president of Cobra Puma golf, said in a statement to ESPN. “He is a fantastic talent and role model, which aligns with our mission to push the game forward and inspire the next generation of golfers. We’re excited to be part of his journey.”

Perez has won more than 250 tournaments since he started competing in golf nine years ago at the age of 3. The phenom also reportedly has endorsements with Easypost, JumboMax and OnCore. 

“He hits the ball further than any 12-year-old I have ever seen, and when it comes to his short game, he already has hands like a professional,” Perez’s agent Brett Falkoff told ESPN. “His larger-than-life personality and well-mannered demeanor will set him apart, and we feel that combined with his work ethic and passion for the game, it’s only a matter of time before he takes the golf world by storm.”

NIL deals have taken over the college sports landscape, especially in football and basketball. Starting last summer, the NCAA now allows college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness — a move that many in the amateur sports world were anticipating. 

The rules have drawn the ire of several college football coaches, such as Nick Saban, whose comments about NIL deals pertaining to Texas A&M and Jackson State got him in hot water. 

It’s caused some athletes to transfer and seek out better NIL deals at different schools, and it’s also impacted high school recruiting. For example, five-star quarterback Arch Manning — grandson of Archie and nephew of Peyton and Eli — is projected to get a multimillion-dollar NIL deal when he enters college. 

Some high schoolers have also received NIL deals. Two weeks ago, Nike signed high school soccer stars Alyssa and Gisele Thompson to endorsement deals. The California-based sisters were the first high schoolers that Nike signed to NIL deals. 

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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