A New Playbook

Sean Clifford is leading efforts to help student-athletes maximize new opportunities off the field.

Sean Clifford kneeling on field

Sean Clifford will leave Penn State with a degree in advertising and public relations and a second degree in journalism. The Nittany Lions’ sixth-year senior quarterback has also received an unofficial business education since launching Limitless NIL, a marketing and consulting agency for student-athletes, last spring.

Using funds gleaned from his own experience with name, image, and likeness opportunities, Clifford ’20 Com took the roots of what was a class project during his junior year—(the task: build his own brand; he got an A)—and quickly built it into a student-run organization that counts more than three dozen athletes from Penn State and other schools among its clients. Sean’s younger brother and Nittany Lion wide receiver Liam Clifford serves as chief development officer, and former Penn State defensive lineman Aeneas Hawkins holds the title of chief athlete officer.

As founder and CEO, Clifford wants his fellow athletes to benefit from what he learned during his first year of NIL experience: how to work with financial experts (Limitless has partnered with an advising firm to offer no-cost investment guidance to its athletes), how to manage their time, and how to consider the bigger picture—like stock options and equity over paid endorsements. He urges them to “focus on transformational over transactional.”

“When you talk to a company, you shouldn’t be thinking, ‘What can I get from this company?’” he says. “It’s ‘How can I enhance this company?’”

Clifford planned to move into a less hands-on role with the company as football season approached. (Notably, in July, he confirmed his role in a separate student-athlete collective that met with Big Ten leadership to discuss a voice for players in revenue sharing and improved medical care.) He says he came to Penn State hoping to gain some entrepreneurial experience, and Limitless NIL has provided it. “It’s a grind,” he says, “but it’s a lot of fun.”