From tragedy to triumph: Niles’ Baxter signs NIL with Degree Deodorant – HORIZONS 2023

Published 6:15 am Friday, March 10, 2023

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Caiden Baxter has come a long way from the worst moment in his life in 2016.

The 2019 Niles High School graduate suffered a spinal cord injury from a four-wheeler accident that left him partially paralyzed from his waist down.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Baxter began rehab and set a new goal for his life. The University of Michigan senior joined the Wolverine’s Adaptive Sports Program, where he took up tennis.

Baxter spent hours and hours learning the ins and outs of the sport, which he admits he could have been better at when he started. Times have changed for Baxter. He went from being a wheelchair tennis newcomer to one of the top players in the United States.

Baxter, who has always been a competitive person who enjoys sports, joined Michigan’s Adaptive Sports Program shortly after arriving in Ann Arbor. The program was started by Dr. Oluwaferanmi Okanlami, an assistant professor of family medicine and physical medicine & rehabilitation, at the University of Michigan.

The program allows people with disabilities to continue competing in sports.

Baxter went from being a novice to an Adaptive Sports Scholar at Michigan in a matter of just three years.

He also went from being a freshman tennis player for the Wolverines to a No. 9 ranking in the United States Tennis Association in Division A, which is the highest level. He has improved so much since his early days in Ann Arbor that he played in the USTA Wheelchair Nationals each of the last two years.

Being a successful athlete did not go unnoticed. Last fall, Baxter signed a Name, Image and Likeness deal with the Degree Deodorant #BreakingLimits team.

Degree is one of the first major brands to start working with college athletes and the new NIL rules, which went into effect in 2022.  The #BreakingLimits program is designed to help student-athletes set themselves up for success after graduation.

Baxter is part of the second set of NIL deals announced by Degree. The first year, Degree signed 11 athletes. Baxter is one of 18 members of the year two roster. He joins Wolverine football player Junior Colson as a member of the #BreakingLimits team.

Baxter continues to train and compete at Michigan with the varsity winter tennis team, as well as working with Degree. He is the first wheelchair athlete at the University of Michigan to sign an NIL deal and one of the first in the country.

“Degree has a #BreakingLimits campaign, which is their roster of athletes they feel have exceptional stories about persevering,” Baxter said. “They have a variety of athletes on their roster. They signed me back in September.”

Signing with Degree was easy for Baxter, who is a long-time user of the deodorant.

“We are a Degree family,” he said. “We like to say. It is really good. I like their spray. They have sent me a lot of products that I didn’t know they had. They sent me a body wash with Epson salt for after exercising. They have some really cool stuff.”

Upon signing with Degree, Baxter allows the company to use his name or image to promote their products.

“They are able to use me on their social media, on their websites and they send me different tasks for me to do to represent them,” he said. “I am basically a spokesperson. They then pay me to do that.”

Baxter just recently began promoting one of Degree’s newest products, an adaptive deodorant line for people with limited hand function.

“They had me do a promotional video for that, which they posted on their social media,” Baxter said. “It is things like that.”

Every athlete who signs an NIL uses it in different ways. Some use portions of it to give back to their communities, such as University of Michigan running back Blake Corum, who bought turkeys at Thanksgiving and gave them away to families in need. Others save it to use once they graduate to help them get started toward their future goals.

What is Baxter going to use his money for?

“Right now, it is going into a savings account,” he said. “Once I have graduated, I am looking at a long-term place to live, so I feel it will be nice to have that financial buffer. So, I haven’t really spent the money on anything.”

Baxter said that he has been able to interact with other #BreakingLimits team members, especially those who were signed in year two like he was.

“We were all connected at the time or our signing,” he said. “There are other athletes I have talked to. I have also chatted some about the campaign with Junior Colston. It is a pretty wide roster with people from all other the country. So, it is limited on how much we connect with each other.”

Being a proud Wolverine, Baxter said it was nice to see multiple student-athletes from the Big Ten aligning themselves with Degree.

“it is definitely cool,” he said. “It is great to see multiple athletes from our institution and to see multiple wheelchair athletes. There are two wheelchair basketball athletes that are on the roster, so that is super cool just because of the limited number of NIL deals that are available.”

Baxter is proud of what he has accomplished since that day back in October of 2016. He would like to people to understand that anything is possible with hard work and desire. He has taken a tragedy and turned it into a triumph and would encourage others to try do the same.

“I just want people to realize that signing a deal like this shows that having a disability does not stop you from reaching the highest levels of athletes, and you are able to accomplish the same goals as people without disabilities do,” he said. “I am super excited that as NIL became more normalized throughout the country and college athletes were able to sign financial compensation deals, it is cool that wheelchair athletes are able to do the same thing. I just want people to realize the same opportunities are out there, you just have to look for them.”