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Houston's Jamal Shead signs NIL deal with ExxonMobil

Nakos updated headshotby:Pete Nakos03/03/24


Jamal Shead is playing like an All-American on the court right now.

Houston vaulted to No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll earlier this week, the program’s first time this season. The Cougars sat in the top slot for seven weeks last season, their first appearance since the “Phi Slama Jama” era.

But what makes Houston’s run more remarkable this season is it marks the Cougars’ first in the Big 12, arguably the best basketball conference in the nation. Shead has been a crucial reason behind the success. The guard had 26 points, six assists and three steals in a top-10 win over Iowa State last week before beating Baylor.

Shead is now capitalizing off his on-court skills and making NIL history. The senior has inked an endorsement deal with the natural gas and oil company ExxonMobil, becoming the first college athlete to work with the company. Facilitated by the Houston-driven NIL collective LinkingCoogs, the deal will see Shead start in promotional material for the company headquartered in Space City. Full terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“This is a personal collaboration, but to me, this is a testament to my coaching staff and teammates at the University of Houston. I would not have had this opportunity without them,” Shead said in a statement. “My values and ExxonMobil’s complement one another perfectly – we both work to support the communities where we live and work.”

Houston continues to find NIL success

LinkingCoogs is managed by TheLinkU, which has expanded to managing NIL entities at UCLA, Florida AtlanticTexas StateNorth Texas and the College of Charleston. Instead of focusing on raising donor dollars, the sports marketing firm focuses on facilitating brand deals in the select college markets.

Now the largest deal facilitator for Cougar athletics, Austin Elrod, Troy KyleNorman Stalarow and Greg Ralph founded the venture. Former Houston guard and grad assistant Landon Goesling helps run the day-to-day operations.

The marketing firm has sourced over seven figures in deals for Houston players. Kelvin Sampson’s program has not had any struggles making the jump to the Big 12, thanks in part to the Cougars succeeding in the NIL arms race.

The latest NIL agreement with ExonnMobil is just further evidence. With Jamal Shead averaging 13.3 points and 5.9 assists per game, the Cougars are currently forecasted to earn one of the four No. 1 seeds, according to the latest bracketology from On3’s James Fletcher.

With a 26-3 overall record and 13-3 mark in the Big 12, Houston is closing in on clinching the league’s regular season title in Year 1.

“We are thrilled to announce this NIL contract with ExxonMobil,” Goesling said. “To date, this is the first deal with an internationally recognized brand we have executed, and it’s a testament to our mission and goals at TheLinkU. What makes this even sweeter is that ExxonMobil is headquartered right here in Houston, the city we live, work, and play. This is for the city.”