By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
Missouri Western softball player and outgoing senior Emma Hoffart was granted a fifth year of eligibility due to COVID-19.
She never imagined that the extra year would include an endorsement deal with a national brand.
The NCAA announced on June 30 that all NCAA athletes are now able to profit off of their own name, image and likeness.
Degree Deodorant got involved, introducing their #BreakingLimits team - a roster of "inspiring college athletes that push boundaries, move beyond their limits and inspire others."
Degree unveiled the #BreakingLimits roster Wednesday, and Hoffart was included on a list of 14 athletes from various different sports and schools across the nation.
"They did a really good job of encompassing the diversity they were wanting to achieve from this," Hoffart said of the #BreakingLimits team.
Hoffart first heard about Degree's #BreakingLimits campaign from a former Missouri Western baseball player, who had a friend at OpenDorse - a sports technology company that maximizes endorsement value for athletes and is headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska.
When Hoffart first heard about it, she was sure that her involvement would be prohibited under longtime NCAA rules. Then, she saw the news on social media, and how athletes could now profit off of NIL.
She's now the first athlete in Missouri Western history to sign an endorsement deal.
"Honestly, there's no words to describe it," Hoffart said. "It still doesn't even feel real, because going into Division II athletics, you have a love for your sport and you want to play it well, but you never dream of being recognized for anything at that level. To be able to represent DII at a national level is pretty amazing to me. It's career changing. Life changing. It's a huge deal."
Hoffart says Division II and III athletes getting endorsement deals is especially important, since full-ride athletic scholarships are far less common at the lower level than they are in DI.
"There's a common misconception that every athlete is on a full ride, so they're getting their tuition paid for and that just isn't true," Hoffart explained. "Especially at the DII level. To be spending so much time and effort into your athletics, it takes away from your time to get a full-time job for example."
Each member of Degree's #BreakingLimits team has their own personal story about perseverance and breaking limits through the power of sport, according to the company.
In April, Hoffart wrote an article for OutSports.com about her experience coming out as gay while growing up in suburban Omaha, how her family came to terms with it and how that's shaped her life.
Between that, and dealing with a hearing disability, OpenDorse and Degree stumbled upon Hoffart's story and signed her for a one-year endorsement deal, which will include the funding of local community projects, content partnerships, social media campaigns and more.
"Together with its student athlete partners, Degree will continue to roll out new initiatives and programming in the weeks and months ahead, focused on supporting those who face the biggest barriers to being active," the company said in a release.
Whether some reads her article on OutSports, or learns of her story through this campaign with Degree, Hoffart hopes that her journey can bring awareness, and deliver a sense of comfort and normalcy, especially to those younger athletes who are going through similar experiences.
"If I were that age and if I were to see something, or read something about someone older than me that I looked up to or admired, and they shared a story that's similar to mine, it would have brought me so much comfort in knowing that I'm not alone," she said. "Just making sure that maybe one day, it won't be that big of a deal to share that kind of a story."
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