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McFeely blog: Bison's Talbert cashes in on iconic interception

T-shirts depicting Talbert reaching high into the air to make the interception above a James Madison defender went on sale online a few days after the Dec. 17, 2021, game. Talbert posted video Tuesday of a rack of the shirts at the NDSU bookstore. He said the T-shirts are expected in Fargo's Scheels store soon, too.

Talbert T-shirt.jpg
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FARGO — North Dakota State cornerback Destin Talbert made a play that will live forever in Bison football history. Since it's 2022, it will also live forever on T-shirts off which Talbert can make a few bucks.

Talbert's iconic one-handed, game-saving interception in the Football Championship Subdivision playoff semifinals against James Madison at the Fargodome was almost immediately turned into a graphic and printed on T-shirts by BreakingT, a Washington, D.C.-based company that specializes in turning viral moments into quick-turnaround merchandise.

T-shirts depicting Talbert reaching high into the air to make the interception above a James Madison receiver went on sale online a few days after the Dec. 17, 2021, game. Talbert posted video Tuesday of a rack of the shirts at the NDSU bookstore. He said the T-shirts are expected in Fargo's Scheels store soon, too.

The shirts say "To Frisco We Go." The Bison's 20-14 victory over the Dukes sent them to the FCS championship game in Frisco, Texas, where NDSU beat Montana State 38-10 earlier this month.

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North Dakota State's Destin Talbert makes an end zone interception against James Madison during their NCAA FCS semifinal football playoff game Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.

And, yes, Talbert is getting a royalty off each item of clothing sold. He signed a name, image and likeness contract with BreakingT a couple of days after the game.

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"I could've sold one T-shirt and I'd be happy, smiling ear to ear," Talbert said. "But when I walked into the bookstore and saw a rack of them, I had to share that. That's pretty cool."

Welcome to the new world of college sports, where athletes can make money off their name, image and likeness per NCAA rules. While there are reports of some athletes at the most recognizable FBS schools making millions off their fame, players at smaller schools like NDSU aren't approaching those figures.

Bison receiver Phoenix Sproles is the team's best-known beneficiary of NIL benefits, cutting several sponsorship deals with businesses locally and in his hometown Twin Cities.

"If I make some money off it, that's fine. But the bigger thing was making that play, being a part of that moment and what it meant," Talbert said. "That's the part that's really cool. I'm just so excited to make that play."

Talbert's interception is available on regular T-shirts, hoodies and women's V-neck T-shirts. A T-shirt is $30. They are available online at BreakingT's website .

BreakingT is an interesting story by itself. Started in 2014, the company monitors social media using internal software. When something viral or buzzworthy pops up, the company will make a decision to design a graphic and often has merchandise produced in a day. Talbert said a representative from BreakingT contacted him via direct message on Twitter by late Friday night or early Saturday morning almost immediately after the game.

BreakingT considers their products media and applies a newsroom mentality toward decision-making.

“It's all about what fans are talking about,” the company’s president, Jamie Mottram, told the Sports Business Journal. “And that is usually something that’s not limited to the outcome. It’s more specific. It’s something funny or memorable or touching or inspiring. It’s usually something more than just the score.”

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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