WCIA — Luke Ford is teaming up with WWE. The Illinois senior tight end is one of 15 college athletes announced to the pro wrestling’s ‘Next in Line’ class on Monday, signing name, image and likeness deals providing a clear pathway from college athletics to WWE.

Every athlete who signed will have access to WWE’s state of the art performance center in Orlando, Florida, along with brand building opportunities, media training, communications, live event promotion, creative writing and more. After completing the NIL program, athletes will have an opportunity to earn WWE contracts. According to a release, six people who graduated from the first NIL class have either signed or are in discussion to join WWE on a full-time basis.

Ford is expected to take on a bigger role this season with the Illini, in his third full season on the field with the program. Last fall, the Carterville native had 15 catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

WWE Next in Line Class:

Ali Mattox of Ole Miss, a 5-foot-7 cheer & dance athlete from Little Rock, Ark.
Case Hatch of Arizona State, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound football player from Gilbert, Ariz.
Chandler Hayden of Tennessee, a 5-foot-11 track & field athlete from Pittsfield, Ill.
Cohlton Schultz of Arizona State, a 6-foot-2, 285-pound wrestler from Parker, Colo.
Derrian Gobourne of Auburn, a 5-foot-4 gymnast from Sarasota, Fla.
Ericka Link of Elon, a 5-foot-6 volleyball player from Hedgesville, W.Va.
Keshaun Moore of Hampton, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound football player from Suffolk, Va.
Luke Ford of Illinois, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound football player from Carterville, Ill.
Maliq Carr of Michigan State, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound football and basketball player from Inkster, Mich.
Mikala Hall of Central Michigan, a 5-foot-5 basketball player from Danville, Ill.
Rachel Glenn of South Carolina, a 6-foot track & field athlete from Long Beach, Calif.
Ruben Banks of Arkansas, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound track & field athlete from Binfield, England
Thunder Keck of Stanford, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound football player from Northfield, N.H.
Tyanna Omazic of Miami, a 6-foot-2 volleyball player from Kansas City, Mo.
Zachary Knighton-Ward of Hofstra, a 6-foot-2, 285-pound wrestler from Rosedale, N.Y.