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Photo by Adam Shibley
Notre Dame Football

TUFF & Notre Dame Players Using NIL to Benefit Youth in South Bend

May 2, 2022

You may or may not have heard the name, Adam Shibley. 

The Cleveland native played linebacker for Michigan for four years before transferring to Notre Dame for his fifth season. 

The 6-foot, 225-pounder saw his season end after week six due to injury, but Shibley has now set his sights on impacting the South Bend community as he has in Ann Arbor and Cleveland. 

Shibley founded The Uniform Funding Foundation (TUFF) during his sophomore year at Michigan as a moment from his high school days stuck with him over the years. 

I was looking to do more with my life," Shibley told ISD. "I felt I wasn't doing enough outside of practice and school, so I thought back to a time in high school when kids were on the streets trying to fundraise for their upcoming season. They came to my car asking for money and I remember that moment sticking with me because I never had to do that growing up. 

"When I became a Divison I football player, I felt there was a clear platform to help out those kids and teams." 

Adam Shibley

The foundation's primary focus is providing uniforms, equipment and mentoring America's youth. 

TUFF has found success around Ann Arbor and Cleveland and now Shibley is looking to expand with the help of his Notre Dame teammates. 

"My teammates and I started fundraising money," Shibley said of TUFF's start. "I had gotten our articles of incorporation through the state of Ohio, 501c3 status and really started fundraising. I got a grant from the University of Michigan, which helped launch the first donation in my hometown of Cleveland. My teammates saw that and really got involved. 

"We've donated in Detroit to their youth football league called the Police Athletic League. We've donated in Cleveland, Flint, Virginia and Chicago. We're going to Tampa, Denver and Hawaii. Marist Liufau and I are doing a Hawaii donation in Honolulu on May 7." 

Shibley has seen progressive growth and hopes 2022 will be TUFF's biggest year to date. 

"We've raised $400,000 and impacted over 4,100 kids," stated Shibley, who will graduate with a master’s in management from Notre Dame. "It's really taken off over the last year as we raised over $250,000."  

A few of the teams TUFF has helped have worn the same uniforms for over 10 years. Some teams have kids with helmets in multiple colors because that's the only equipment available. 

TUFF's impact is felt as soon as the new equipment is delivered. The smiles from the kids and coaches having stress relieved is what motivates Shibley and his team. 

"It's been really cool," explained Shibley. "The main reason we get so much joy is seeing what a difference it makes for a lot of the programs. 

"The reactions and the difference we're making is what drives us. It's everything. We've been able to start mentorship relations with the kids too. It carries into their schoolwork and extracurriculars and even how they're attacking football." 

The donations are one part of Shibley's mission. Mentorship has become another focus of TUFF as multiple college football players have been able to pass along advice over the years. 

"We've gotten into girls basketball, but much of the work has been with youth football," Shibley said. "We've been able to share our experiences as Division I football players with kids and that's invaluable advice that a lot of people wouldn't have access to. 

"At first, it's the big smile when we introduce the new equipment and they get super excited, but then taking a step further and building relationships with the kids and getting to offer wisdom and seeing how they tie it in to their lives is amazing." 

Adam Shibley
Gus Johnson and Adam Shibley 

Detroit native and top sportscaster Gus Johnson has also helped with TUFF by donating his time and money to his former youth league. 

"Gus Johnson currently serves on our board," Shibley explained. "He's been a super good mentor for us and helped us connect with different people in the sports world. He called a lot of my games at Michigan and our game with Wisconsin this year. 

"He's been very good at helping us grow. Last year he donated over $37,000 for his youth program in Detroit. He believes in our mission and saw what we were capable of and really wants to help us take off.

"It was the same program he played for as a kid and he came back to Detroit for the first time. I think it was the first time he was back at that field too." 

The next step for TUFF will be summer football camps in Ann Arbor (June 5), South Bend (June 11) and Cleveland (June 26). 

TUFF's goal will be to have its impact felt by more youth and allow kids and parents to know the brand while allowing college football players to share life lessons at the camps. 

"We have a camp in Ann Arbor, Cleveland and South Bend this summer," said Shibley. "The main goal is to offer invaluable experiences at a very low cost for many kids who go to some of the lower-income schools across the three cities we're doing camps in. A lot of the Detroit kids will come to the Ann Arbor camp and kids from the teams we donated to are our target." 

What does Shibley mean by low cost? 

TUFF is asking for a donation that can be as low as $1. 

“We’re not doing it for the money,” stated Shibley. “We want to make sure kids have an unforgettable experience and gain as much knowledge as possible.” 

Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) has been a hot topic in college athletics since July. TUFF is using NIL as a chance to promote its camp this summer and the players involved aren't making a dime. 

South Bend Orthopedics will sponsor TUFF to help cover the overhead costs associated with the camp.

"We were able to do certain things at Michigan because it was a non-profit, but we weren't able to put players on advertising," Shibley said of the impact of NIL. "The flyer we posted on Instagram for the Notre Dame camp, we were able to get (Tyler) Buchner, (Michael) Mayer and (Isaiah) Foskey on there. 

"That's something we couldn't have done without NIL. It's good to show who will be at the events and create some hype around it."

Shibley admits he's seen how NIL has impacted those around college football in a negative way, but he's grateful Notre Dame's players haven't changed in the new era. 

"With NIL being such a huge thing, the money can change people's perception and aren't as willing to give their time," Shibley stated. "It's really cool to see how the Notre Dame football players want to be involved with the camp and want to give their time at no cost."

TUFF and Shibley have bigger goals as the uniform donations and camps are hopefully just a start. 

"Our mountain top goal is to open our own facility similar to The Gug,” said Shibley. “We would have meeting rooms, a weight room and a field. The teams we donated to or the kids in the area would have access to it and we'd have an after-school program where they can study and bring in speakers. 

"We just want to make as big of an impact on as many teams across the country as possible. It's been a natural progression going to different cities and given the platform as a Michigan and Notre Dame player, the networks span across the world, so it's been cool to expand in that way." 

Registration for the camp in South Bend: TAKEOFF TOUR: South Bend

TUFF Website

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