Bonding, community and a paycheck for NC State football players at Food Bank event

NC State football players packed more than 500 boxes of food, enough for more than 13,000 meals, at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina in Raleigh on Saturday morning at a name, image and likeness (NIL) event.

The Pack of Wolves NIL Collective, which organized the opportunity for 57 football players, paid each participant for their work. Players committed between an hour and two hours to the event, where they assembled boxes before loading them with canned goods and other non-perishable items.

It was the first large-scale event for football players to earn money from the Pack of Wolves NIL Collective since it announced last year that it would guarantee $25,000 for Wolfpack players who participated in events for charitable organizations throughout the year. The payments are funded by donations to the collective and are on a per-event basis.

Players also post about the event on social media, helping promote the organizations.

“I’m here to help and also make some NIL money as well. It works hand in hand,” NC State defensive lineman CJ Clark said. “Being able to bond and also help the community and also make some money, it’s a great thing.”

The NCAA changed its rules in July 2021 to allow athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness. As a result, athletes can be paid for community appearances, such as Saturday’s, as well as autograph sessions, camp events, social media posts and marketing campaigns.

The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina serves 34 counties and provided more than 81 million meals to families and individuals last year. More than 500,000 people across those 34 counties face hunger, according to the Food Bank.

Players arrived before 9 a.m. on Saturday for the event where they worked alongside a few members of the community in the Food Bank’s warehouse.

“You see a bunch of our guys are out here doing something that can better the community on a Saturday,” said quarterback Brennan Armstrong, a transfer from Virginia.

“This is one of the things you’ve got to do as a team, just off the field stuff. We’re with each other so much around football all the time that I think a team is really built through just doing stuff outside that is not football related. I think just doing this stuff to help the community just brings us together and just continue to build a connection with each other.”

The Pack of Wolves NIL Collective, created last summer, is now managed by Blueprint Sports, which has 15 collectives in its portfolio. General manager Chris Vurnakes started in December.

NC State opens spring practice on March 1.

The Pack of Wolves, which works with athletes across the Wolfpack athletic department, will host a meet-and-greet with men’s basketball players at The Brickhouse in Raleigh on March 2. Fans can take pictures with their favorite players and get autographs at the free event.