Exclusive: Decorated gymnast Megan Skaggs talks about the future of NIL

New York, New York - In an exclusive interview, TAG24 sat down with NCAA decorated gymnast Megan Skaggs on the future of the name, image, and likeness for college athletes nationwide.

Megan Skaggs became the first student athlete to receive the NIL Advocate of the Year Award.
Megan Skaggs became the first student athlete to receive the NIL Advocate of the Year Award.  © Collage: Screenshot/Instagram/megan_skaggs

It has been officially one year since the NCAA experienced its biggest change in college sports history by allowing student-athletes to engage in name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals.

Collegiate athletes from around the country are now taking advantage of their influence in sports with the help of brands worldwide.

From high-end collaborations with Mercedes-Benz to stylish clothing racks with athletic fashion designer Champion, the new generation wave of athletes has transformed into young entrepreneurs.

Gymnastics champion Gabby Douglas ends bid for Paris Olympics comeback
Athletes Gymnastics champion Gabby Douglas ends bid for Paris Olympics comeback

Megan Skaggs, one of the big names in women's college gymnastics, became one of the many athletes who ventured into entrepreneurship and marked her name in NIL history.

Skaggs, the first-ever recipient of the NIL Advocate of the Year Award, sat down with TAG24 in an exclusive interview about the future of NIL and the power it has given athletes beyond sports.

Performance with a purpose

Megan Skaggs led her Florida Gators gymnastics team to their 11th SEC Championship title in 2022.
Megan Skaggs led her Florida Gators gymnastics team to their 11th SEC Championship title in 2022.  © Screenshot/Instagram/megan_skaggs

After losing a competition year due to Covid-19, and as one of two gymnasts ever to earn the prestigious All-American honor five times, Skaggs did the unthinkable: she took on a fifth year to compete.

"With the option to have a fifth year, It kind of didn't feel like an option[to] me," Skaggs told TAG24 about competing in the sport she fell in love with as a kid. "[Gymnastics] has given me so many opportunities and it has brought amazing things into my life."

At 22 years old, she's considered a "grandma" in the sport even though Skaggs, alongside her Gators team, led the program to their 11th SEC championship and a national runner-up finish in 2022.

Simone Biles opens US gymnastics championship with soaring display!
Athletes Simone Biles opens US gymnastics championship with soaring display!

Despite all she'd achieved during her extra year, it was her mission to "pair performance with purpose" that ultimately motivated Skaggs to create a charitable contribution business called the Tiny Bow Project, and give back to the sport that gave her so much.

Skaggs talks about the Tiny Bow Project

23-year-old Megan Skaggs used her influence as a top gymnast to make societal impact through her charitable contribution business, the Tiny Bow Project.
23-year-old Megan Skaggs used her influence as a top gymnast to make societal impact through her charitable contribution business, the Tiny Bow Project.  © Screenshot/Instagram/megan_skaggs

With the mission to "inspire fans, bring impact to causes and charities, and empower young gymnasts to chase their dreams," Skaggs used her influence in gymnastics to bring awareness to 10 societal causes, like mental health, through the Tiny Bow Project.

All season long, Skaggs wore different color hair ribbons that represented each societal cause during competitions on Friday nights.

"Every girl on the competition floor was wearing lime green ribbons in her hair," she detailed about her teammates and competitors joining her mental health awareness campaign. "It was enough to cause an audience to ask questions and wonder what all these athletes are doing something united for when they're competing against each other."

Eventually, the movement became so popular that Skaggs invited members of the community to join in.

In partnership with 10 organizations that represented each of the 10 societal causes, the decorated gymnast began to create and sell identical hair ribbons that she wore in competition to the public.

By the numbers, Skaggs distributed over 20,000 hair ribbons, allowing her to donate $5,000 to each of the 10 organizations the Tiny Bow Project had partnered with.

NIL Advocate of the Year: More than just an athlete

NIL Advocate of the Year award winner Megan Skaggs attends the 2022 NIL Summit Awards in Atlanta, Georgia.
NIL Advocate of the Year award winner Megan Skaggs attends the 2022 NIL Summit Awards in Atlanta, Georgia.  © Collage: Screenshot/Instagram/megan_skaggs

Since the NCAA overturned their old rule that didn't allow athletes to profit off their athletic influence, student athletes have taken the opportunity head-on by developing entrepreneurship skills that can help them make an impact outside of sports.

With the help of the Tiny Bow Project, Skaggs' impact beyond gymnastics was honored at the first NIL Summit Awards.

There, the young entrepreneur was awarded the NIL Advocate of the Year award, becoming the first recipient in NIL history.

The honor recognizes "the student athlete that has best leveraged their name, image and likeness to create substantial impact towards their community, non-profit, and/or philanthropic causes."

"I have no idea how I won," Skaggs revealed. "It's a huge honor. It was awesome to be in the presence of athletes who are truly supporting each other, but also making moves in their own personal lives to build their brand."

"They listed these other student-athletes from all over the country, different universities and just the impact and financial donations that these people had made, it was pretty insane to hear all the amazing things that student-athletes have done," she said.

Skaggs garnered the achievement over nominees: Cal Adomitis (Pittsburgh), Geo Baker (Rutgers), Dillon Gibbons (Florida State), Fran Belibi (Stanford), and Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa).

Highlights from exclusive interview with gymnast Megan Skaggs

In May, Skaggs graduated with her Master’s degree and is currently working with the Gators' gymnastics team as the assistant to the head coach, Jenny Rowland. Still using her influence with the Tiny Bow Project, Skaggs also plans to debut new brand deals later this year. To watch the full exclusive interview with Megan Skaggs, click here.

Cover photo: Collage: Screenshot/Instagram/megan_skaggs

More on Athletes: