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Ronnie Stanley

Photo via Notre Dame

Offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley loves the flexibility of the deal.

The NFL Draft is still 22 days away, but one of the top offensive linemen prospects is already making history.

Former Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley has signed a shoe and apparel deal with online seller Zappos, as first reported by ESPN. Instead of signing a contract with a major sports apparel company like Nike or Under Armour, Stanley has become the first athlete to sign a deal with the online apparel distributor that doesn’t actually make its own products.

Perhaps Kanye West isn’t impressed by Zappos’ services, but for Stanley, a predicted first-round pick who’s seen by many observers as the second-best offensive tackle in the entire draft, the deal makes sense.

“Most guys do a shoe deal and they don’t have any flexibility because they are tied to who paid them,” Stanley told ESPN. “I can do whatever I want.”

The flexibility means that Stanley theoretically could wear different brands every week he’s in uniform if he so desires. Or he could change shoes in the middle of a game, and nobody could stop him.

When Stanley recently met with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, the two talked about how athletes traditionally have worked with and been marketed by specific shoe companies, and they decided to try something different. Instead of getting paid millions of dollars by a company like Adidas—which, to be fair, probably wouldn’t happen for an offensive linemen, who typically have much lower Q-ratings than just about any other position on the football field—Stanley will promote Zappos and, in turn, receive an unreported amount of credit to use on the Zappos website.

“This is very much unknown territory for us,” Jeff Espersen, general manager of merchandising for Zappos, told ESPN. Espersen also said Stanley could be involved in writing for the website about why he’s chosen the shoes and apparel he wears.

But the flexibility seems to be one aspect of the deal that won over Stanley.

H/T The Comeback

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