Former Long Beach Poly defensive back Alex Austin is using the NCAA's new NIL rules to create a scholarship for underprivileged students. Photo courtesy of Alex Austin

Last year the NCAA began allowing athletes to cash in on their name, image and likeness, and some high-profile athletes inked lucrative deals amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, a former Long Beach Poly football player is using this new cash-generating tool to create a scholarship for students facing adversity.

The new era has allowed amateur athletes to endorse products and be paid for them, something that was taboo just a few years ago. Some schools have even taken to promoting how much their athletes have earned as a recruiting tool to lure in student-athletes with the promise of financial gain.

Alex Austin, a former Jackrabbit defensive back who’s entering his fourth season with the Oregon State Beavers, announced last week he’d be using the opportunity for something different: Establishing a scholarship for less fortunate students. Austin’s scholarship is believed to be the first of its kind.

Austin announced last week that he had officially launched his Overcoming Adversity Scholarship in partnership with Access Scholarships, an online scholarship search engine, and HirectApp, a mobile hiring app, which will grant one $1,000 scholarship and two $500 scholarships to high school or college students who apply.

“I look forward to doing this every year,” Austin said in an interview Monday. “I hope to get enough donations to be able to give a full ride or at least a full year of tuition.”

The scholarship is open to all high school or college students in the United States, but Austin said he’s hoping to award the scholarships to minority students and those who are the first in their families to attend college. Undocumented students and those covered by DACA are also eligible.

Applicants have to submit their information and a 500-word (or less) written response to an essay question that asks about an obstacle or challenge they’ve faced, how they navigated the situation and what lessons they learned from it. Austin will be included in a panel of people who will evaluate the responses and ultimately pick the winners.

His idea to start the scholarship stemmed from a childhood of growing up around public servants.

Austin is the son of three-term Long Beach City Councilman Al Austin whose wife, Daysha, has worked for politicians in the state Legislature and Congress for years. Councilman Austin said that he’s humbled by his son’s efforts to give back to those in need.

He recalled when Alex was in high school he’d act as a liaison for his classmate who were in need. Whether that meant acquiring extra backpacks for friends who couldn’t afford one or securing turkeys and gift cards for friends’ families in need, Alex always had a heart for service, Austin said.

“I’m just a proud dad, humbled and really in awe of his work and accomplishments thus far,” Austin said. “I think the sky is the limit for him and he’s just scratching the surface of the man he’s going to be.”

Shawn O’Gorman, Austin’s agent, said that while the amounts for the scholarships are small for now, there is growing interest from other businesses and individuals who want to contribute to the cause.

Being the first to create a scholarship through the “name, image and likeness” policy, or NIL, is notable, O’Gorman said, and will likely lead to more opportunities for Austin in the future.

“When a company asks me about what type of guy he is, that’s all that needs to be said,” O’Gorman said of Austin’s push to give back to the community.

NIL money will eventually dry up when Austin’s college eligibility runs out, but he said he intends to continue the scholarship beyond his days at Oregon State. Austin said he’s given thought to expanding it to include an LBUSD specific scholarship to help students in need in Long Beach and eventually would like to start his own nonprofit.

Austin said he hopes that more athletes find a way to use NIL to give back to their communities and not just use it as a way to benefit themselves.

“There’s always someone that’s doing worse than you are,” he said.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.