Hunter Reynolds turned his soccer career into a TikTok career

HReynolds is a sports management student, a fullback for the Utah State soccer team, and a rising TikTok star.

His comedy sketches, football gear reviews, and the famous Drip of Skip series where he reviews other athletes’ outfits have garnered him almost 130,000 followers on TikTok in just under a year.

However, all of this almost didn’t happen for Reynolds. When TikTok emerged in 2019, he deleted the app almost as soon as he downloaded it.

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

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

“The app had changed so much this year,” he says. “The variety was great – more football, comedy, hip-hop and rap content. I was like, ‘Okay, this app isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Let me see if I can add anything of value.’”

He started posting clips from his time and short comedic skits, all of which didn’t get more than a thousand views – but he still got excited.

“A thousand people?” he says. “That’s a lot of people. I was really looking forward to it.”

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

“Gyms have been closed, schools have been closed,” says Reynolds. “But for football you have to stay in shape anyway. He wanted to know how I did it, so I recorded my workout routine and posted it, like, ‘How a college football player stays in shape.'”

This video has now over a million views. But even when his TikTok account started taking off, Reynolds says he remained an “occasional content creator.”

“I was just finishing my bachelor’s degree, I had a football season ahead of me,” he says. “I didn’t have time to commit to anything, nor did I feel like uploading anything.”

This second break from social internet was the last boost it took for his profiles to explode.

“I’ve seen professional athletes who have had a large following and the opportunities that have given them,” he says. “And I’m not a jealous person – seeing people succeed in the field I want to work in motivates me more than anything else.”

Reynolds has two more years of eligibility to play college football, but the opportunity to monetize his social media — and himself — came much sooner. In July 2021, the NCAA passed the Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) policy. Overnight, collegiate athletes across the country were allowed to monetize their personal brand — opening up nearly unlimited monetization opportunities. For most athletes, it was like a watershed had broken.

But Reynolds? He was prepared.

“At some point I knew I was going to be done with college football,” he says. “And whenever that point came, I wanted to have as large 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 already had brands and people I enjoyed working with. I found a lead early on. The only difference was that now I could start making money.”

At the time, Reynolds had around 50,000 followers on TikTok. The sudden opportunity to branch out required what Reynolds calls a “necessary shift in priorities.”

“I was like, ‘If social media can start paying me like a job, I need to start treating it like that,'” he says.

Football, Reynolds insists, always comes first. Next come his school duties. What followed was his free time — but with this new “side job,” Netflix and video games were dropped from the team.

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

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 with the algorithm.”

TikTok and Instagram often recommend videos that are old, he says. And if someone clicked on their profile and saw a desolate account, their chance to connect would be gone. Instead, his site is a treasure trove of content.

“Before I was a content creator, I was a content consumer,” he says. “I know what I like and what kind of sites attract me, so I follow those models.”

This approach to content creation has produced an audience that looks and thinks very much like him.

“I fall into the same categories as my followers,” he says. “My analyzes show that the majority of them are 16-25 year old males – me; about 75 percent of them play some kind of sport – me.”

An audience like this is a win, says Reynolds.

“A lot of soccer player content is about soccer,” he says. “And of course that makes sense. But I like to look at it more broadly: I have credibility when it comes to football, sure, so I’ll talk about that, but I like other things too. And I think creators make that mistake and think there’s only one thing you have to do — there’s so many people out there that overlap with you in a lot of ways. All you have to do is be true to yourself… and then film it.”

In fact, according to him, sometimes the non-soccer posts are more popular.

“If a new helmet comes out or there’s a glove drop or something, I get tagged in all these posts,” he says. “So I just started making videos about it and giving my honest reaction. That’s also the point – whether I have a positive or negative response, it attracts comments, encourages engagement and gets more people to my page.”

But Reynolds doesn’t want to leave the whole engagement on TikTok. His latest project? Long video on YouTube in which he plans to give his followers a “deeper look” into his life through vlog content.

“On TikTok and Instagram, it’s more my everyday life,” he says. “Quick snapshots of scenarios I find myself in, jokes and comments. But on YouTube, I feel like people get more opportunities to really get to know me.”

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

“I definitely want to play football for as long as possible,” he says. “But social media is something I can continue to do no matter where I am or what I’m doing. When my football career is over I will know that I will be able to make a living from that part of my life as well.”

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