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Utah Business

Hunter Reynolds is a sports management graduate student, a defensive back for Utah State’s football team, and a rising TikTok star.

Hunter Reynolds turned his football career into a TikTok career

Hunter Reynolds is a sports management graduate student, a defensive back for Utah State’s football team, and a rising TikTok star.

His comedy sketches, football equipment reviews and famed Drip of Skip series—where he reviews other athletes’ outfits—have garnered him nearly 130,000 followers on TikTok in just under a year.

All of this almost didn’t happen for Reynolds, though. When TikTok emerged in 2019, he deleted the app almost as fast as he’d downloaded it.

“It was a just bunch of dancing,” he says. “And I’ve never been a good dancer.”

But when the pandemic struck in early 2020, boredom pushed him back on his account. This time, he saw more of himself online.

“The app had changed so much in that year,” he says. “The diversity was awesome—more football stuff, comedy, hip hop, and rap content. I was like ‘Okay, this app isn’t as bad as I thought. Let me see if I can add anything valuable to it.’”

He started posting clips from his day and short comedic skits, all of which didn’t get more than a thousand views—but that thrilled him anyway.

“A thousand people?” he says. “That’s a lot of people. I was really excited about it.”

But his metrics for success changed after he posted an at-home workout at the request of one of his little brother’s friends.

“Gyms were closed, schools were closed,” Reynolds says. “But for football, you need to stay in shape anyway. He wanted to know how I was doing that, so I recorded my workout routine and posted it, something like ‘How a college football player stays in shape.’”

That video now has over a million views. But even when his TikTok account started to take off, Reynolds says he remained a “casual content creator.”

“I was finishing off my undergraduate degree, I had a football season to play,” he says. “There wasn’t the time to commit to anything, and I also didn’t feel like uploading.”

That second hiatus from the social internet ended up being the final push his profiles needed to explode.

“I saw professional athletes who had large followings, and the kind of opportunities they were getting from it,” he says. “And I’m not a jealous person—seeing people succeed in the space I want to be in is more motivating for me than anything.”

Reynolds has two years of eligibility left to play college football, but the ability to monetize his social media—and himself—came much sooner than that. In July 2021, the NCAA adopted the name, image and likeness (NIL) policy. Overnight, college athletes nationwide were allowed to begin cashing in on their personal brand—opening them up to nearly limitless monetization opportunities. For most athletes, it was like a watershed had broken.

But Reynolds? He was prepared.

“I knew at some point that I’d be done playing college football,” he says. “And whenever that point came, I wanted to have as large of an online presence as possible. I wanted to be in a position where I could pick up the ball and run. When NIL happened, I was already in that mindset. I was already growing, and I already had brands and people I was interested in working with. I found a lane early on. The only difference was, now, I could start making money.”

At this point, Reynolds was sitting around 50,000 followers on TikTok. The sudden opportunity to branch out required what Reynolds calls a “necessary shift in priorities.”

“I thought to myself, ‘If social media can start paying me like a job, I need to start treating it like one,’” he says.

Football, Reynolds emphasizes, always comes first. Next are his school obligations. What followed was his leisure time—but with this new “part-time job,” Netflix and video games were cut from the team.

“I figured I could either use those 30 minutes to watch a show, or I could film, edit and upload a video,” he says. “And only one of those things was going to grow my brand.”

Reynolds, like many content creators, swears by the consistency-to-success pipeline.

“Sometimes I post twice a day,” he says. “In the earlier days of all this I was posting three times a day. Seems like a lot, but it’s just playing to the algorithm.”

TikTok and Instagram often recommend videos that are old, he says. And if someone were to click on his profile and see a desolate account, his chance to connect would be over. Instead, his page is a treasure chest of content.

“Before I was a content creator, I was a content consumer,” he says. “I know what I like and what kind of pages I’m drawn to, so I follow those models.”

That approach to content creation produced an audience that looks and thinks a lot like him.

“I fall in the same categories as my followers,” he says. “My analytics show that the majority of them are 16 to 25-year-old males—me; around 75 percent of them play some kind of sport—me.”

An audience like this is an asset, Reynolds says.

“A lot of football players’ content is centered around football,” he says. “And of course, that makes sense. But I like to look at it as more wholesale: I have credibility when it comes to football, sure, so I’ll talk about that, but I like other stuff, too. And I think creators make that mistake, thinking you have to do just one thing—there are so many people out there who overlap with you in numerous ways. All you need to do is be true to yourself…and then film it.”

In fact, in his opinion, sometimes the non-football posts are more popular.

“When a new helmet releases or there’s a glove drop or something, I get tagged in all of those posts,” he says. “So, I just started making videos on it, giving my honest reaction. That’s the thing, too—regardless of if I have a positive or negative response, it draws comments, drives engagement, brings more people to my page.”

But Reynolds doesn’t want to leave all that engagement on TikTok. His newest venture? Long-form video on YouTube, where he plans to give his followers a “deeper look” into his life through vlog content.

“On TikTok and Instagram, it’s more of my day-to-day grind,” he says. “Quick snapshots of scenarios I find myself in, jokes and commentary. But on YouTube, that’s where I feel like people will get more of a chance to really know me.”

That shift is still in the making, as Reynolds works to hire videographers, editors, and graphic artists. These plans, like all his social media goals, require Reynolds to play the long-game—something he’s one hundred percent committed to.

“I’m definitely looking to continue playing football for as long as I can,” he says. “But social media is something I can continue to do no matter where I am or what I’m doing. Whenever my football career is over, I’ll know that I’m capable of supporting myself with this part of my life, too.”

Jacqueline is a Master of Accounting graduate from the University of Utah. Specializing in tax, she's interested in business, government, and the intersection of the two. When she's not studying or writing, she loves to run, play Candy Crush, and read novels.