Tennessee Baseball Fan Favorite Doing NIL Deal With Weigel’s

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Tennessee baseball has made the most out of NIL opportunities this season selling customized shirts and leaning into Jordan Beck’s alter ego “Mike Honcho.” But it’s a different fan-favorite that is in the NIL spotlight this week.

Catcher and super senior Evan Russell is partnering with Knoxville based convenience store Weigel’s for an NIL deal. The super senior appeared in a video Weigel’s tweeted out Thursday morning.

NIL is a game changer for all athletes, but can be even more necessary for baseball players. College baseball teams have 11.7 scholarships to spread amongst 35 players on the roster. It’s extremely rare for a baseball player to have a full-athletic scholarship and many get no athletic scholarship help.

Russell is one of those players that’s never received athletic assistance from the University of Tennessee, walking on the baseball team his freshman year and steadily proving his worth.

“It means a lot because there’s a lot of guys that are hard working and they want to not only perform well on the baseball field but they want to have their academics and their living situation — they don’t want to have to worry about that,” Russell said Thursday. “There’s a lot of people that come to mind that come to Tennessee and give up quite a bit of money to be here and play for this team. To have people getting opportunities and to have companies like Weigel’s reach out and want to work with us, I think that’s only going to increase and as long as we keep handling business on the field those opportunities will arise I believe.”

Russell is off to a strong start in his super-senior campaign, hitting .303 with six home runs and 24 RBIs on the season. The Lexington, Tennessee native has been solid at the plate in conference play too, hitting .250 with three homers and eight RBIs.

However, Russell’s biggest impact on the field is no longer what he does at the plate but what he does behind it. The left fielder turned catcher has been solid defensively while handling some extremely talented Tennessee pitchers.

“I think I’ve been playing pretty well behind the plate,” Russell said. “That was my goal coming into the season, to be able to handle the arms that I knew were going to be talented. I think I’ve handled them quite well and the more guys I can throw out the better, but as you can see our pitching staff kind of worries about not letting guys on base. If we give up a couple extra stolen bases it’s not too big of a deal as long as we’re winning games it doesn’t really matter — the stat line for myself.”

The Vols will be back at the friendly confines of Lindsey Nelson Stadium this weekend when they host Missouri for a three-game series.

Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.