MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A lot has changed since the last time Lee Kpogba played on a Division-I football field.
For one, his uniform has changed twice.
After spending two years at Syracuse, the linebacker enrolled at East Mississippi Community College. After spending one season at “Last Chance U,” he has found a new home at West Virginia University.
“I feel like I’m fitting in with the team well,” Kpogba said Monday. “I’ve been here for a while now, going on almost six months, so I mean, me and the guys have pretty good relationships.”
Another thing that has changed since his last game for the Orange in 2020 is the inception of name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities.
College athletes can profit off themselves in a way never seen before.
Kpogba, for example, was one of the nearly two dozen WVU football players at Monday’s youth football camp at Mylan Park who is also part of the Country Roads Trust.
Country Roads Trust is West Virginia’s name, image and likeness collective, an organization aimed at creating NIL possibilities for WVU student-athletes.
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For Kpogba and other older collegiate athletes, they are now playing in a different landscape than the one they signed their Letter of Intent for in the pre-NIL days of college sports.
“It’s two totally different eras,” said the redshirt junior linebacker. “NIL is definitely helpful, when we get the opportunity to make money from our name and things like that it’s great. Because we put in a lot of work, always in the facility, 24/7, and things like that. So, getting the opportunity to make money for it, and benefit from it, is fun.”
Kpogba played 22 games in two seasons at Syracuse before NIL deals became available for student-athletes. He collected 44 tackles, with all but one coming in his sophomore season.
At East Mississippi Community College, during the infancy of the NIL era, Kpogba became an NJCAA All-Region player. He led the Lions with 84 total tackles, had 5.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks.
Now he’s at West Virginia.
Kpogba has found his way back to Morgantown, in a way. West Virginia was one of the first Power 5 programs that offered him a scholarship while still at Parkland High School in North Carolina.
The landscape around college sports just happened to change in the meantime.