AFB Hospitality Group, owner and operator of The Morrie, an award-winning restaurant with locations in Royal Oak and Birmingham, has announced University of Michigan football early enrollment freshman, Will Johnson, the top-ranked high school football prospect in Michigan, has signed an historic multi-year name, image, and likeness (NIL) deal with the hospitality group.
The deal is among the first of its kind in Michigan for a player who hasn’t yet taken the field, according to attorney Michael D. Stein, who represents Johnson and who practices law in the evolving world of collegiate NIL endorsement deals.
“From my perspective, this deal is a trailblazer for NIL compensation and sets a precedent for future student athletes and businesses alike,” Stein says. “Deals like these will pave the way for younger athletes to profit from their star power at the start of their collegiate careers while also allowing businesses to forge early partnerships with athletes who will be the household names of tomorrow.”
Through partnering with The Morrie, Johnson, the state’s No. 1 football recruit for the class of 2022 per 247 Sports, becomes one of the first early enrollment freshman athletes in Michigan to sign a multi-year NIL deal, and one of the first to partner with a hospitality brand.
In exchange, Johnson will make public appearances at both of The Morrie’s locations, promote the restaurants on his social media profiles, and participate in other NIL activities.
Johnson is a defensive back from Grosse Pointe South High School and son of former Michigan cornerback Deon Johnson. Already familiar with The Morrie, he was drawn to a NIL deal based on the brand’s image, reputation, menu offerings, and continued popularity in the community.
“With the rise of social media and the new college sports landscape, I’m now blessed with the opportunity to market myself and my brand, and further the business goals of my brand partners, as I plan to do with The Morrie,” says Johnson. “Working with one of the hottest restaurant and live music venues in Michigan perfectly matches my vibe and who I am.”
With Johnson under contract, this will be AFB Hospitality Group’s first brand ambassador as they enter the world of NIL partnerships with college athletes.
“Since the NIL market opened for businesses, I’ve been seeking a star athlete to align with both AFB Hospitality Group and The Morrie,” said Aaron F. Belen, owner of AFB Hospitality Group. “Will Johnson, an electrifying athlete and five-star talent, meets all of our expectations, on and off the field. I welcome Will to our family as a brand ambassador and speak for our more than 200 associates in saying that we’ll be cheering for him on the field and in the classroom.”
For more information, please visit TheMorrie.com.