KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Just as cars have developed over time, so have women’s athletics. As the conversation continues about the need for support, athletes are seeing progress that seemed unimaginable just years ago. From sold-out stadiums to name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals.

Women athletes are getting the attention they’ve called for, and they only hope it continues. However, here in East Tennessee and across the country, the Lady Vols have always been a fan favorite, and it’s only proving to be true after Rickea Jackson recently signed a NIL deal with Mercedes-Benz of Knoxville, part of Furrow Automotive Group. It’s the largest to date for a Lady Vol athlete. 

“It’s a different world now,” Ann Baker Furrow, a pioneer for Tennessee Women’s sports said. “If we don’t support the Boost(Her) Club and support our women athletes, we won’t stay at the top level that we’ve always been and what we have grown to love and appreciate,” she said.

Furrow has seen the way women’s sports have developed after being the first female on a full ride to play on the men’s golf team back in the 60s. And since the progression, it has led women athletes to moments like Jackson’s, as she now gets to drive around in a Mercedes Benz CLA 250 coupe.

“I appreciate that she (Ann Baker Furrow) promotes excellence, just like Rickea promotes excellence. That’s why we chose to partner with Rickea and the Lady Vols Boost(Her) Club,” Ann Baker Furrow’s daughter, Lee Ann Furrow Tolsma, the president and CEO of Furrow Automotive Group said.

This deal is one that is fueling Jackson to be the best version of herself on and off the court. 

KNOXVILLE, TN – November 25, 2022 – \wb during the game between the Colorado Buffaloes and the Tennessee Lady Volunteers at Thompson–Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Emma Ramsey/Tennessee Athletics

“To have things like this presented to us, and for other young ladies that may look up to me to know that you can reach this, you can reach more; it just goes to show that women are starting to progress and people need to put more into women’s sports as they do the men,” she said. “Of course, there will be that disparity, but we’re trying to equal it out and that’s what I feel here at Tennessee. It genuinely feels like we are equal here.”

Get to know Rickea Jackson:

Jackson did also touch on what fans can expect this upcoming season, stating that fans should, “get their tickets now, it’s going to be a movie.” For more on the Lady Vols, visit their website.