Why this family-owned Idaho business was perfect fit for 2 BYU players to open NIL era

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PROVO — The first endorsement signed by a BYU athlete under new legislation that permits the free use of name, image and likeness wasn't signed with Nike, Coca Cola or some other well-known national brand seeking to latch on to the Cougars' exclusive television contract with ESPN.

For most people, they probably won't have any idea what the company represents. But for second-year freshman Tyler Batty, the company was perfect for him.

Batty and fellow freshman Austin Riggs became the first NIL-endorsed athletes at BYU in the NCAA's new era when they signed Wednesday with Balmshot, a family-owned manufacturing company based in Eagle, Idaho, that makes all-natural, beeswax-based lip balm and packages it in recycled 20-gauge shotgun shells.

"It's a great product; I used it a lot, even before they signed me," said Batty, who also was recently married in June. "I couldn't be happier endorsing this product, because I actually love it."

What Batty loves even more, though, has little to do with this unique lip balm, which the company markets itself as "more than Chapstick."

But Batty's business with Balmshot is more than just a chance to make a few bucks. The two groups have similar interests and motives, as well.

"It's really awesome what they are doing up there, and it molds perfectly into the vision of what we have for our nonprofit as well," Batty said. "I couldn't be happier working with someone like that."

Balmshot was founded in 2010 by Wayne Forrey, who was diagnosed with lip cancer and had to find a new recipe that wouldn't affect the tumors growing around the edges of his mouth. The company took off from modest roots, eventually signing a contract with Bed, Bath and Beyond, Cabelas, Big 5 Sporting Goods and a host of other national retailers, making it available across the United States, Canada and Australia.

A few years ago, Danny Walker — a BYU law school graduate who lives in the same Eagle town as Riggs and former BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum — acquired the company from Forrey and kept the family-owned nature of the business.

But he also used it for a more special purpose.

Walker has a teenage son with Down syndrome, and as he grew he noticed other adolescents and adults with disabilities who had immense talents and an ability to give back to the world — but often lacked meaningful, full-time employment.

Adults with disabilities have an unemployment rate as high as 85% in Idaho and much of the West, Walker said, and he wanted to do something about it. So he began hiring them.

Speaking with KSL.com shortly after operations returned to full force following the COVID-19 pandemic, Walker said he currently employs six adults with special needs and has been able to bring on more for his company that regularly packages and delivers more than 250,000 parcels per year.

That mission caught the attention of Batty and Riggs, who recently set up a nonprofit called Edwards' Hands — named after the son of BYU assistant head coach, safeties coach and special teams coordinator Ed Lamb that is on the autism spectrum — that provides Utah County youth with disabilities with equine therapy.

"It's definitely a match made in heaven," said Riggs, a freshman longsnapper. "It's not just about making a couple of bucks; Balmshot has this awesome mission, and we have the same mission. We're already on board with them, and it flows so smoothly."

Batty echoed his teammate. He grew up on a farm in south Utah County with a father who regularly took special-needs children and taught them to ride horses, for both recreation and therapy. It's why he wanted to launch the nonprofit, which also includes BYU linebacker Drew Jensen, and why he wanted to partner with Balmshot.

In many ways, Balmshot's mission was the same as Edwards' Hands.

"Danny is a phenomenal guy. He's a class act," said Batty, the former Payson High standout who had 13 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in four games for BYU in 2020. "You quickly realize that money for him is not the point; he's about helping people. That's where the money comes into play with this: he wants it to be as mutually beneficial as possible for me and my pursuits as a college student. But we're also going to promote Balmshot, the product and their mission.

"But Danny is just trying to do good. He's a really genuine guy, and is trying to help people with special needs — an area we are both so passionate about."

The feeling was mutual.

"Our approach as a business has been not to view this as a short-term, transactional thing," Walker said. "We've invited Austin and Tyler to be a significant part of our strategy, and to take things to the community and Utah County in particular as a complement of what we are doing across the company. The compensation is structured the way it is for a reason.

"There's an opportunity for them to learn and to grow as individuals and business leaders, to get a feel for running a business. They're going to do well in life, managing or investing in businesses whenever their football careers end, and we think it's as important to grow these young men as it is to get a return on our investment."

Details of the contract are still being worked out, but Walker said the two football players will be paid for endorsing the product on social and traditional media, as well as being involved in other areas of the business. Each athlete received a signing bonus upon finalizing their contract and will receive monthly bonuses for appearing in company marketing campaigns and community appearances on behalf of the product.

Walker also wants to set up a few camps in Utah County that will allow youth and young adults with disabilities and their friends to meet Batty and Riggs and train with a BYU football player for a day.

The deal won't be a potential six-figure salary like Miami quarterback D'Eriq King, who signed three deals Wednesday worth more than $20,000 apiece and has been at the forefront of advancing the face of NIL endorsements. But Batty and Riggs will be comfortably compensated, or so Walker fully intends — and he hopes this first signing will be a signal to other businesses and athletes that NIL rights aren't something that need to be feared moving forward.

It's the same message that BYU pushed through its Built4Life program — to establish opportunities that don't just benefit college athletes in the present, but also sets them up for the rest of their lives.

"One of the reasons I came to BYU was for stuff like this," Riggs said. "It's about more than just football; you only play for a few months every year. But BYU makes things so easy for us, and they prepare us for a good life.

"That's one of the main reasons they're giving us so much free reign right now. Coach (Kalani) Sitake isn't just recruiting for talent, but for who we are. I'm thankful for everything Coach Sitake has done, for training us to do the right thing and to partner with companies like Balmshot."

BYU's athletic department also made the agreement easy. Batty said he had a short meeting with associate athletic director Gary Veron, who manages the Cougars' NIL-related policy and a Built4Life program that includes financial education for all athletes, then received the paperwork and had the agreement cleared by the university less than a day later.

"Within 24 hours it went from start to a finished deal," Batty said. "BYU has been amazing with this entire process. I'm grateful to be at a school that cares so much about its athletes."

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