'Tez is a Tar Heel:' Despite NCAA denial, North Carolina assisting Tez Walker's NIL brand

On3 imageby:Pete Nakos09/15/23


Tez Walker was supposed to be Drake Maye’s top target this season.

Expectations were high, too, as the wide re landed pre-season All-ACC honors despite never playing a snap in the conference.

Those expectations have not gone as planned. The NCAA denied his immediate eligibility request to play during the 2023 season twice. The decision has resulted in an uproar from the North Carolina fan base, led by multiple administrators and coach Mack Brown.

“Plain and simple, the NCAA has failed Tez and his family and I’ve lost all faith in its ability to lead and govern our sport,” Brown wrote in a public letter.

Walker played for Kent State in 2021 and 2022. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior was listed on North Carolina Central University’s roster in 2020, yet left without playing a game after the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Walker is still in Chapel Hill, though. Expected to be a top NFL draft prospect, if he makes it on the field this year is an unknown. For Graham Boone, the executive director of the Heels4Life NIL collective, as long as the tight end is on the roster, he will be assisting in Walker’s NIL efforts.

The collective is promoting Walker’s NIL partnership with Chapel Hill Sportswear. As part of the agreement, the apparel business has released a Tez Walker T-shirt. In Carolina Blue, the front features a picture of the tight end while the back includes his name and number in white.

Price at $22, proceeds from the shirt will go back to Walker. It allows fans to support the receiver off the football field during this time.

“I think that we’ve seen such an amazing amount of public support from Carolina fans for Tez,” Boone told On3. “I think this T-shirt is another way for us to prove how the Tar Heel community supports our student-athletes. As we said in a statement last night on our social media, regardless if he’s on the field or not, Tez is a Tar Heel. He deserves our support. And he’s been nothing but an amazing community member and partner for Heels 4 Life. So anyway that we can spread the word on how to help him is a good thing.”

North Carolina fans back Tez Walker

Earlier this week the NCAA said  “violent – and possibly criminal – threats” were directed at committee members involved in transfer waiver decisions. In the same statement, the NCAA outlined that the D-I Board is “troubled by the public remarks made last week by some of the University of North Carolina leadership.”

Some have suggested that North Carolina test the NCAA and play Walker, pressuring the NCAA to make a move. The Tar Heels are 2-0 with wins over South Carolina and Appalachian State. Minnesota visits Chapel Hill this weekend.

A driving reason behind Walker’s decision to transfer to North Carolina was to play in front of his grandmother, Loretta Black. The receiver grew up in Charlotte and went to West Charlotte High School.

“It shows how much these fans do not just care about the sports, but they care about the young people who are playing them,” Boone said. “I think that the real conversation here is about a young man who just wants to play football. A lot of people believe he should be able to do so. I think the outpouring of support shows, not to be hyperbolic, but the humanity of sports.

“When people say this young man wants to play, he wants to play in front of his grandmother. We’ll continue to support him whatever the next steps may be.”

The name, image and likeness era began in the summer of 2021. Walker has seen an uptick in his social media following in recent weeks, as more fans have learned about his story. If he did play this year, odds are he would have found plenty of NIL opportunities.

Catching passes from Drake Maye would have done that. But his supporters haven’t given up on him, supporting him in NIL. Now fans can help him.

“Helping athletes with their financial opportunities, marketing opportunities, educational opportunities – that’s the reason why Heels4Life and so many other collectives exist,” Boone said. “It’s always rewarding, especially when you get to know our young people. They’re just so responsible, respectful, grateful and deserving.”