If you suddenly see an increase of brand-new Dodge Ram trucks on the University of Utah’s campus, there’s an explanation for that.

The Crimson Collective, an independent NIL organization centered around NIL opportunities for Utah student-athletes, has provided every scholarship football player with a free lease on a brand-new 2024 Dodge Ram 1500 Big Horn Night Edition truck. The retail price of each truck is $61,000.

“Can’t even believe it. It still seems unreal, man, but just grateful for the opportunity that we were able to get one and be able to put the work in. We’re just grateful for freaking everything, man. This is unreal.” — Utah defensive tackle Junior Tafuna

Players learned the news at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, running out of the tunnel to discover several of the custom-wrapped Ram trucks sitting in the south end zone.

“Can’t even believe it. It still seems unreal, man, but just grateful for the opportunity that we were able to get one and be able to put the work in. We’re just grateful for freaking everything, man. This is unreal,” Utah defensive tackle Junior Tafuna said.

Each scholarship player will have the opportunity to lease a Ram truck for free from United Fleet Management, with everything covered by Crimson Collective donors — including insurance — as long as they remain on scholarship at the university.

Ken Garff Automotive can sell the trucks to the public after the lease ends, Matt Garff — the chair of the Crimson Collective and part-owner of the Ken Garff Automotive Group — told Ross Dellenger of Yahoo Sports.

Part of the announcement was that the Crimson Collective has partnered with streaming service For The Win 360, which will provide fans with a new way to engage with Utah players.

“The three biggest needs of every student are education, housing and transportation. No one has addressed this transportation need comprehensively before today,” FTW360 CEO Derek Mattsson said.

In an era where players sometimes transfer to another school to get more NIL money, having a robust NIL collective is more paramount than ever. The Crimson Collective sent out a social media post following the truck announcement that reads, “Now that we have your attention, this is just the start. We need support from our fans more than ever. Every dollar makes a difference in keeping our great players on our turf and in our community.”

Welcome to the new era of college football.

The Crimson Collective is trying to raise $6 million by December and has already raised $3.25 million.

“The University of Utah is not going to get left behind,” Utah president Taylor Randall said.

The new trucks will take one worry off the minds of Utah’s players, who potentially no longer need to buy or lease a car while in school.

“Not many schools are giving out trucks,” defensive end Jonah Elliss said. “Especially for us, the dorms aren’t super close. So a whole bunch of these freshmen, getting these trucks to be able to commute from where they’re living at the time to practice would be super helpful for them.”

And today’s announcement certainly could make an impact on recruits eyeing Utah.

“Yeah, definitely,” Elliss said. “Shoot, man. If I saw it ... coming into college that every scholarship player has got a truck. I mean, I’m not sure if many other programs are doing that, so it would definitely be a step up for that school.”

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The Crimson Collective places an emphasis on service in NIL deals, and part of the deal to get the truck is that each player is encouraged to participate in a service project.

“Being able to have the opportunities that the collective has and the organizations that foundations that we work with is awesome. We meet awesome kids every week, awesome people,” Tafuna said.

Soon, the streets and parking lots around Utah’s campus will be full of glistening trucks, and players are already taking steps to easily differentiate theirs from the herd.

“I was listening to what everyone wanted to get, so most people were saying black, so as long as I get a different color than that, I should be fine,” Utah offensive lineman Spencer Fano said.

Utah football players walk onto the field to celebrate getting a Dodge truck given to them by the Crimson Collective.
Utah Utes scholarship football players walk onto the field to celebrate getting a Dodge truck given to them by the Crimson Collective during an NIL announcement at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News