Sunday’s Super Bowl battle between the Kansas City Chiefs’ hot-shot Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady, the NFL’s winningest quarterback of all time, highlights the wave of young QBs who are bringing sizzle to the gridiron and grabbing the attention of Madison Avenue and Hollywood.
Mahomes, 25, is going for his second consecutive Super Bowl trophy with the Chiefs. That has set up a generational test of wills between the Chiefs star and Brady, who is going for his seventh Super Bowl ring and his first with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady is facing perennial retirement rumors, even as he up-ends NFL convention by playing a Super Bowl-caliber level game at the age of 43.
Mahomes, who signed a whopping $450 million 10-year contract with the Chiefs last year, and the other QBs are coming on strong as other veteran NFL stars are also likely to leave the field soon, including New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees or Phillip Rivers, who hung up his jersey after 17 seasons in January. Meanwhile, rising stars like Lamar Jackson, quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens, are popping up in commercials, game shows and lining up movie and TV representatives at top talent agencies.
Here’s a rundown of fresh-faced QBs making waves on and off the gridiron.
Team: Kansas City Chiefs
Representatives: Steinberg Sports and Entertainment; Jacquelyn Dahl of 1UP Sports Marketing
The reigning Super Bowl champ (and MVP) will be on the gridiron and in the commercials on Sunday. Mahomes co-stars with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and the brand’s spokesman “Jake” (actor Kevin Miles) in State Farm’s first Super Bowl spot.
Last year, Mahomes starred in an Adidas ad, celebrating his small-town Texas roots. The quarterback also has endorsement deals with Bose, Oakley, Hunt’s Ketchup (he’s a big fan of the condiment) and Head & Shoulders, where he faces off against Steelers Hall of Fame defender, Troy Polamalu (and his famous mane). Mahomes also appeared on the cover of EA’s “Madden NFL 20.”
The 2018 NFL MVP is the son of former Major League Baseball pitcher Pat Mahomes and the young star’s preternatural athleticism has helped him become one of the highest paid players in sports history. In July, the QB signed one of the biggest deals to date, a 10-year, $450 million contract extension; weeks later, the football star became a minority owner of the Kansas City Royals baseball team.
Over the summer, Mahomes was also a vocal supporter of Black Lives Matter, making a video with teammate Tyrann Mathieu and a host of NFL stars, encouraging the the league to condemn police brutality and violence against Black people. Mahomes and Mathieu also started a voter registration project in Kansas City. The football star has been a trailblazer for Black players, becoming the second Black QB to win the Super Bowl MVP after Doug Williams in 1988.
Team: Baltimore Ravens
Representatives: Felicia Jones; WME for TV and commercials
The 24-year-old Baltimore Ravens QB has been lighting up the stats sheet on the field since his 2018 debut, winning the NFL MVP prize in 2019 in the second unanimous decision in league history (Tom Brady earned this distinction in 2010).
Jackson already had quite the trophy case, after winning the 2016 Heisman, beating out Baker Mayfield to become the youngest ever winner at age 19. In 2020, he suited back up in his Louisville jersey to star in a Nissan Heisman House commercial.
The ad is an example of how Jackson’s commercial prospects are growing off the field. The quarterback is the cover athlete for EA’s “Madden NFL 21.” During a Zoom press conference announcing the news, Jackson said that getting the cover spot has “been a dream of mine since I was a little kid, since I first started playing ‘Madden.’”
In addition to the video game, Jackson also has an endorsement deal with eyewear brand Oakley, who outfitted the football star with a special visor this season. The QB also headlines a Bose Quiet comfort earbuds ad with Patrick Mahomes and Panthers receiver Christian McCaffrey. In 2019, he was featured on an NFL All-Stars edition of ABC’s “Celebrity Family Feud.”
Team: Buffalo Bills
Representative: CAA Sports
The 24-year-old from Central California became the hero of long-suffering Buffalo Bills fans this year when he led the team to its first AFC East championship in 25 years. Although the team’s Super Bowl hopes were thwarted by Mahomes and Co. in the conference championship game, Allen and Co. put up a respectable fight.
Allen stayed mostly under the radar during his first two seasons with the Bills, but the team’s success in 2020 sets the stage for high expectations this year. He’s sure to see his pop culture profile rise during the off season. His endorsement pacts to date have included Nike, New Era Cap Co., Microsoft Surface and Hyundai. In the Bills’ backyard of Western New York, Allen is also the pitchman in humorous ads for West Herr Auto Group, which has dealerships in Buffalo and Rochester.
Team: Cleveland Browns
Representative: Capital Sports Advisors
The 25-year-old Cleveland Browns star was the number one pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he’s earning his keep on the field — leading the Browns to their first playoff win since 1995 — and off, as the face of Progressive insurance.
The quarterback has started in Progressive’s “At Home with Baker Mayfield” ad series, which also features his wife Emily and Browns lineman Jedrick Wills, since 2019. In the spots, Mayfield shows off his acting skills, with line readings that rival the now-retired QB (but still-active pitchman) Peyton Manning. (Take a listen to how Mayfield tees up “that honeymoon scene…” in the “Book Club” spot.
The charismatic star also has endorsement deals with Hulu, BodyArmor and Nissan. And he is an investor in the CBD wellness company, Beam, which also has former NASCAR driver Danica Patrick and golfer Billy Horschel as ambassadors.
Mayfield began his journey to the NFL as a walk-on player at Texas Tech, going on to win the 2017 Heisman trophy as a starter at Oklahoma.
Team: Cincinnati Bengals
Representative: CAA Sports
The 24-year-old who made his mark as a college player at Ohio State and Louisiana State University had a tough first year with the Cincinnati Bengals after suffering a season-ending knee-injury in November.
Burrow came to Cincinnati with high expectations after leaping onto the national stage as a star with Ohio State. Burrow then led LSU to the college football championship in 2019, which in turn helped him nab the Heisman Trophy and made him the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick last year.
Burrow’s big moment of rising into the pros was magnified by the fact that ESPN’s live coverage of the 2020 NFL Draft in late April was one of the first big national events to be televised as remote broadcast as the U.S. was just starting to adjust to pandemic lockdown conditions. The 6-foot-4 QB endeared himself to fans as he sat between his mother and father on the family room sofa and said “yes, sir” more than once to Bengals coach Zac Taylor.
The Athens, Ohio native also made headlines in January 2020 by referencing the hard times and hunger that persist in his hometown as he accepted the Heisman, college football’s highest honor.
“I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school,” Burrow said. “You guys can be up here too.”
Burrow has racked up endorsement deals with Nike, Bose and Fanatics.
Team: Miami Dolphins
Agency: Steinberg Sports and Entertainment, Athletes First Partners for marketing
The University of Alabama star skipped his senior year with the Crimson Tide last year after being sidelined in 2019 with a potentially career-ending hip injury, without which he likely would have been an NFL No. 1 draft pick.
But Tagovailoa rallied hard and declared himself a contender for the 2020 Draft. He wound up becoming the No. 5 pick, landing with the Miami Dolphins.
The 22-year-old Hawaiian’s story was captured in the 2020 Fox Sports documentary “Tua,” which chronicled his injury and recovery and explored the influence of his devout Christian faith and Samoan heritage. This week, he launched the Tua Foundation, a charitable endeavor designed to support youth concerts, health and wellness and other worthy causes in Hawaii, South Florida and Alabama.
“It is my deepest hope that the foundation will make a meaningful impact in support of those in need. Helping others is a tenet of my faith and who I am,” Tagovailoa said.
Tagovailoa has set endorsement pacts with Bose headphones and Muscle Milk protein supplement.