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WWE SVP on NIL program goals: recruit college athletes in early 20s, eliminate 'chance opportunities'

WWE's SVP of global talent strategy & development talked in-depth about their NIL program.
WWE NIL | Next In Line

To say WWE's strategy for their developmental system has changed is an understatement given the last few years of sweeping talent cuts in addition to quotes made from management on what they are looking for with new recruits in the years ahead.

In an interview for ESPN.com focusing on their Next In Line (NIL) program and specifically college football players, WWE senior vice president of global talent strategy and development James Kimball talked about how they are focusing on young talent to sign, especially in athletics, and gave interesting insights into what they are looking for.

"We would like that (age) number to come down, especially on the developmental standpoint. The second you enter our developmental program and then potentially end up on NXT TV and then onto SmackDown or Raw, you want that number to be 25, not 30 or 35." he said.

After introducing their first NIL class that included Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson and others, WWE will announce a new 15-person class this June. In the article, it was noted that more than 50 male and female college athletes will try out this week for those spots at the Dallas Cowboys' practice facility in Frisco, Texas.

Later talking about supporting athletes who are looking to achieve their college goals before coming to WWE, Kimball said, "Even if you come to WWE when you're 23, 24, 25, that's a significant improvement over what has historically been the case with some of our developmental talent."

Kimball also talked about the ability to fast track some athletes through the program if they see their potential.

"We're able to develop them in an accelerated manner. Get them to WrestleMania or Raw, do media training, do community events. All those initial exposures to the business, those have been done while you're still in school. And then you come down to Orlando and off you go," he said.

He also said the company's wishlist for future NIL signees falls into two categories: "physical (look, size, athleticism, strength) and personality (public speaking, charisma, character range, willingness to be coached)."

Kimball said they are hoping to eliminate chance from the recruitment and signing equation as has been the case in the past.

"The story typically is that you knew someone who knew someone, you had a chance opportunity, you got ahold of an individual who had a line to the company. Our goal here is to eliminate chance from the equation and just improve the likelihood of college athletes having an opportunity."