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How does a six-foot-seven, 330-pound dude with a mullet who won a national championship with the University of Alabama football team end up modeling underwear in Boulder? A series of DMs, of course. The first was from the University of Colorado’s Mike Sanford (then the offensive coordinator, now interim head coach), who encouraged Tommy Brown, who’d entered the transfer portal after not getting enough playing time with the Crimson Tide, to check out the Buffs’ program. The second was from Shinesty, a six-year-old Denver-based company, asking if he’d be interested in modeling their borderline ridiculous but surprisingly high-quality underwear. (See: patterns with suggestively placed hot dogs and mistletoe, a Natty Light collection, and denim-print thongs.)
Brown accepted both invitations, moving to Colorado in January to join CU’s offensive line and donning Shinesty’s patented Ball Hammock Pouch boxers for a series of images released in the spring, in which he appears to be operating a jackhammer and practicing ballet. “It was so much fun,” Brown says—so, when Shinesty reached out again, offering to expand their partnership into a full-blown campaign that would anoint him college football’s first professional underwear supermodel, the right tackle was immediately on board.
Under the NCAA’s new-in-2021 name, image, and likeness (NIL) rules, college athletes can be paid for deals like this, and Brown received an undisclosed amount of cash—he calls it “a big, heaping sum”—to pose in recreations of classic high-fashion advertisements. We chatted with Brown in advance of the official announcement and photo release that’s sure to send even more people sliding into his DMs. (PSA: He has a girlfriend.)
The following conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
5280: Did you ever think you’d be modeling underwear as part of your college football experience?
Tommy Brown: You know, it wasn’t on the forefront of my mind. But when Shinesty reached out to me and I realized that they weren’t a fake account trying to scam me, I was all in for it.
How do you think your teammates are going to react?
My teammates think it’s some of the funniest stuff they’ve ever seen. A lot of them have told me that it’s on-brand for myself, so that’s good to hear. And I think they’re gonna love this next round of photos. The coaches love talking about it, too. We might have to get calendars made and hang them around the facility.
What about your opponents?
No one’s said anything to me yet. The Pac-12 has been a little bit different, compared to the SEC, when it comes to smack talk on the field. Maybe the next game I’ll hear something.
You did a shoot on a motorcycle with a woman and a husky. Who was the better model?
Sam, the female model—she was carrying the team when it came to the modeling aspect of it. She was great. But obviously you can’t go wrong with man’s best friend, and the husky was incredible.
What does your girlfriend think about all this?
Sam was actually concerned about my girlfriend, but when I talked to my girlfriend about it, she understood: It’s showbiz. And we’re both professionals.
You probably can’t tell us how much money you’re making—but what are you going to spend it on?
My car was stolen a week before the photo shoot. They found it, but it’s going to take some money to get it running again. So this will help a lot.
How do you feel about the new NIL rules overall?
NIL is incredible for college athletes. I think that we deserved to be making money; people were making a lot of money off of us. So I felt that it was about time. I do see how it can be a distraction in some programs. I’ve been lucky enough to be in two programs where the players don’t allow it to be a distraction.
Do you know any other players who are benefitting from similar deals?
I have multiple friends doing the Hooters deal because they’re offensive linemen. I passed on some of my NIL deals at Alabama to my best friend, [walk-on offensive lineman] Jackson Roby, who actually just got in the game for the first time a couple of games ago. So Jackson has [Tuscaloosa restaurant] Rama Jama’s. [Alabama quarterback] Bryce Young has Dr Pepper. I love Bryce, too, you know, but my favorite thing is doing the small, community stuff. I had no clue who Shinesty was until they reached out to me, honestly, and now all I talk about is Shinesty. It’s great stuff for brands and the players.