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From Athlete to Entrepreneur: Lawrence Launches Leading NIL Marketplace

College Connections Help Propel Student-Athlete's Business
From Athlete to Entrepreneur: Lawrence Launches Leading NIL Marketplace
Blake Lawrence, '09 & '11, figured out the next part of his life at Nebraska Business after his football career ended due to injury.
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After suffering four concussions in a little over a year, Husker starting linebacker Blake Lawrence's football career came to an abrupt end. The first-team academic All-Big 12 pick in 2008 and four-time Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll selection hailed from Shawnee Mission West in Kansas, where he led his high school team to the state Class 6A title game, earning many all-conference, all-county, all-metro and all-state honors.

Lawrence playing linebacker for the Huskers.
Lawrence playing linebacker for the Huskers.

"I woke up one morning as the starting linebacker for Nebraska, a Blackshirt, which had been my dream, and went to bed that night knowing I could never play football again. I had to figure out who I was because I was no longer a football player. The College of Business helped me figure out the next part of my life," he said.

A marketing major at Nebraska, Lawrence took the Business Strategy and Policy (MNGT 475) course taught by Samuel Nelson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and associate professor of practice in management. Students in the course analyze the internal and external environment around a business to find the proper business strategy, which got Lawrence thinking about something he hadn't been able to get out of his mind.

"I stood up in the middle of class and said I had an idea. Sam turned around from the whiteboard, and in that moment, he could have said, 'Sit down, and shut up. I'm teaching,' but he didn't. He sat down and said 'Tell us your idea,'" Lawrence said.

Lawrence shared his idea for a business and said Nelson encouraged him to pursue it with conviction. That night Lawrence bought the domain name and started his first business within 24 hours.

"That day I found out that I could be Blake Lawrence the entrepreneur," said Lawrence, who partnered with his former Husker teammate Adi Kunalic, '11, to start the business.

Together, he and Kunalic co-founded Hurrdat in Lincoln, Nebraska, to help small to medium-sized businesses with their social media strategies and messages to consumers. Expanding to handle the social media needs of dozens of clients from all over the world, they soon began to assist musical artists and professional athletes by developing their social media strategies.

Lawrence received the College of Business Young Alumni Award in 2023.
Lawrence received the College of Business Young Alumni Award in 2023.

After selling Hurrdat, Lawrence and Kunalic focused on a startup they founded in 2012 called Opendorse. First launched as an app to manage athlete endorsements, the company grew into the leading athlete marketplace. When the Legislation changed so college athletes could profit off their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL), Lawrence, who served as CEO, and Opendorse were ready to guide athletes across the nation.

"Opendorse is the leader in NIL today because of the belief the University of Nebraska–Lincoln had and continues to have in us. Our experiences as students on campus and on the Husker football team prepared us for the wild world of entrepreneurship," said Lawrence. "Our first customer at our first company took our first call because we were Huskers in 2010. The first customer of our first product — Opendorse Social — for the Collegiate NIL space was Nebraska Athletics. Without Nebraska — none of this exists."

Lawrence also went on to earn his MBA@Nebraska in 2011. Named the College of Business Young Alumni Award recipient in 2023, he also gives back to the college and serves on its Department of Marketing Advisory Board.

"Once a Husker, always a Husker," he said. "The Nebraska College of Business has a great reputation. The faculty and staff care and empower students and help them figure out what they want to do in the future. I'm living proof you can come to Nebraska Business and find out you can become an entrepreneur."

Current students can major or minor in entrepreneurship and participate in a number of events and competitions hosted by the Center for Entrepreneurship. Learn more about Nebraska Entrepreneurship at

Published: February 28, 2024