Alabama quarterback Bryce Young quickly ascended college football's ranks as the face of the sport after becoming the first Crimson Tide signal-caller to win the Heisman Trophy in 2021. Now, Young will grace televisions across the country this fall as a new character on Dr Pepper's "Fansville" ad campaigns, serving as a symbol for the sport's quickly changing, more player-friendly landscape.
In the campaign, Young enters Fansville through the transfer portal and quickly replaces one of the existing sons of the central family, becoming a favorite of the parent figures in the process. In many ways, the character arc is emblematic of what's already happening in major college football.
"It's like adding a new member of the family and changing the family dynamics," Young told CBS Sports. "They had the idea and ran the character by me. I thought it was pretty funny. It kind of goes about the current dynamics in college football right now."
Dr Pepper got in on the name, image and likeness trend early last season by signing Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei to an endorsement deal in August 2021 to star in the commercials. The contract was one of the first national advertising campaigns for a college athlete under NIL laws, if not the first. However, Young emerged as the most well-known name in college football following his brilliant second-year campaign and was quickly signed.
"It was a surreal moment finding out, it was something I got to share with my family," said Young. "Even now, people are finding out and telling me how cool it is and how happy they are for me. It's a huge honor to be a part of it."
Young shot all of his commercial spots during a single offseason day in his hometown of Pasadena, California. A teaser for Young's ad was released last week with him starring in an advertisement for a foam finger warehouse -- the kind of meta humor that have made the ads popular.
"I've seen and watched [the commercials] for years," said Young. "Just to have a chance to actually be a part of it is something that's still wild to me. It's a huge blessing, I'm excited."
Young garnered national headlines in 2021 after Alabama coach Nick Saban told the Texas High School Coaches Association that the quarterback earnedin NIL endorsements before ever starting a game. Former Oklahoma great Brian Bosworth, who stars as the "sheriff" of Fansville, pokes fun at Young by asking exasperatedly into his walkie talkie, "How many NIL deals does Bryce Young have?" The numbers are assuredly higher now for Young with a national ad campaign under his belt.
However, the Preseason All-American credits the team of advisors assembled around him for preventing obligations from getting out of control. Despite all the outside factors, keeping his focus on school and football has been relatively smooth.
"I have the same day-to-day routine," said Young. "I'm at the facility or at home 99% of the time. It's not a different lifestyle I'm living or anything like that. Back to my freshman year here, I would do similar things, eat similar things, just kind of have the same routine. I think that just helps me operate and be most efficient with my time and day."
The importance of communication is the biggest thing Young learned after a highly successful first season as a starter in Tuscaloosa. Taking a leadership role from that perspective will be even more important in 2022. Alabama lost four offensive starters in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft, including receivers Jameson Williams and John Metchie III.
Like Young's character in the advertisements, Alabama has been dealing with many of the new headwinds impacting college football. The Crimson Tide added four key transfers on offensive: receivers Jermaine Burton and Tyler Harrell, running back Jahmyr Gibbs and offensive tackle Tyler Steen. All four are expected to play major roles for the preseason No. 1 team in the nation.
"They've all come in with a great attitude and great mindset," said Young. "They've all been smart and picked up the system fast and have been very professional about transferring in. Luckily, it makes my job and all of our jobs easier when they come in and do their work on their own by learning the system and signals and all that. There's a learning curve, there's timing and there's going to be conversations about intricacies of the offense, but those guys have all played at a high level before. They're professional in their approach and are really eager to learn."
Since missing the College Football Playoff in 2019, the Crimson Tide have won consecutive SEC championships and played in back-to-back national championships. With Young and linebacker Will Anderson, Alabama is the first team ever to return both the Heisman and Nagurski winners on the same roster.
Young's 4,872-yard campaign ranked as the best by a passer in program history, and he needs 4,000 yards this season to surpass A.J. McCarron and become Alabama's yards leader. If he can replicate his Heisman-winning year, mock drafts from Ryan Wilson and Josh Edwards of CBS Sports project Young as the No. 7 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
No. 1 Alabama begins its quest for an unprecedented seventh national championship under Saban on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET against Utah State.