Quarterback Ethan Grunkemeyer signs with Penn State and cashes in NIL deal

The Columbus product signed his NLI to join the Nittany Lions, but a Columbus based company signed him to an NIL partnership typically reserved for Ohio State athletes.
Olentangy Braves QB Ethan Grunkemeyer (6)
Olentangy Braves QB Ethan Grunkemeyer (6) / Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA

For the second time in three years, James Franklin went into Ohio and signed the top quarterback recruit from the Buckeye State. On Wednesday, four-star QB Ethan Grunkemeyer, the eighth-ranked QB in the 2024 class, signed his letter of intent to Penn State, but that wasn’t his only commitment. 

Grunkemeyer isn’t just joining the Nittany Lions, he’s joining the fashion apparel retailer Express, with an NIL deal. The Columbus product is excited to partner with the Columbus-based company. 

“As a Columbus native, I grew up wearing and loving Express. It is an honor to partner with the brand and follow in the footsteps of other noteworthy college athletes who have come before me in the program,” Grunkemeyer said. 

Express was quick to jump into the NIL space and previously partnered with Ohio State athletes including C.J. Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Both currently star in the NFL. 

The NIL program is social media first, attempting to leverage Grunkemeyer’s growing platform on Instagram and TikTok. Grunkemeyer announced the partnership on his social media channels today, after finalizing his NLI with James Franklin and the Nittany Lions. 

This deal is a milestone for Express and its NIL program, as Grunkemeyer is the youngest athlete partner to date. 

Regarding the partnership, Sara Tervo, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Express said, "We are thrilled to welcome Ethan Grunkemeyer into the Express Styling Community, expanding on our successful collegiate athlete style ambassador program with a local, talented athlete beginning his college football career.”

Today capped off Grunkemeyer's meteoric rise up recruiting rankings in the past year. Following his high school junior season, his only Division I offer was from Miami (Ohio). However, his stock began to rise during winter throwing sessions in front of coaches, many of whom where there to see his teammate, tight end Gavin Grover who is committed to Cincinnati.

Eventually, after routinely sending workout videos to former Penn State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, he received an offer and committed to Penn State on May 20, 2023 at Oletangy High School just 16 miles from Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

He was still somewhat under the radar until this summer at the Elite 11 Finals when he flew up recruiting rankings an ended as a four-star and the 103rd ranked player in the country. He stayed true to his commitment and it appears now that Penn State was lucky to get in on Grunkemeyer early.

James Franklin does not typically like to dip into the transfer portal. Especially not for the quarterback position, so Grunkemeyer is positioned as the heir-apparent to Drew Allar, but before ever taking a snap in Happy Valley, he’s already cashing in on his promising future.