Nico Young of Northern Arizona celebrates after winning the 3,000 meters in 7:41.01 during the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships at The Track at New Balance in March. | Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been quite a start to the year for star runner Nico Young and it continued Monday when he signed a Name, Image and Likeness deal with Adidas.

“Excited to announce my NIL partnership with @adidas and @adidasrunning ! Grateful to be part of the Adidas family!” Young posted on Instagram. Terms of the deal were not announced.

Earlier this season, Young set the college record in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters running for Northern Arizona, in addition to winning two NCAA Division I indoor track titles. His qualifying times also put him in prime position to make the U.S. team for the Paris Olympics.

The NIL deal with Adidas is a testament to Young’s growing popularity in the sport and a sign that the running shoe and apparel giant sees Young, 21, as a viable Olympian. The website Essentially Sport notes that Young’s deal now puts him on par with his rival, Charles Hicks of Stanford, who signed a similar deal with Nike a year ago. NIL is a relatively new system that allows college athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness, the deal will give Young the financial means to focus exclusively on training and competing without having to chase sponsors.

What is extra special is that Adidas is signing an openly gay athlete. In his coming out message in 2022, he said he wanted to be a representative for others struggling with who they are.

I have struggled to accept myself, but I am becoming more proud and happy with who I am. I have realized that the only reason I never liked this part of who I am was because of what society has told me, not because of how I actually feel.

This is a quality of myself as well as so many other people that should be accepted and celebrated just the same as a straight person’s identity is.

I want and hope to be a representative and advocate for others like me. I want anyone who is struggling with who they are to know that you are never alone, and that the people who truly matter to you will always be there to love and support you.

If people choose to walk out of your life because of who you are, then they never deserved to be in your life in the first place.

Nico Young

Young is yet another example of an athlete thriving after coming out. The old fears about sponsors shying away from an out LGBTQ athlete just took another hit.

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