Nia McCardell defines her own name
On the court, you can see Rice’s senior libero Nia McCardell tapping the floor four times with her nails before receiving each serve. Off the court, you can find McCardell behind the camera, filming a vlog for her new YouTube channel “niaaanicole.”
“I’ve always been saying I want to start a YouTube channel,” McCardell said. “This summer, a lot of people [were] reaching out to me for [Name, Image and Likeness] deals so I said this is the perfect time because I’ll have content.”
McCardell is no stranger to the personal branding world. Since NIL was permitted for NCAA athletes, McCardell has been leveraging her athletic talents and active social media platform to land multiple brand deals. McCardell said maintaining her public image is crucial to her NIL success.
“With these brands, I’m just showing the life of an athlete and just making sure that even though I’m posting all this stuff, I’m taking time for me and taking time for school, friends and family,” McCardell said.
McCardell’s volleyball career started early, while watching her older sister Keandra McCardell play club volleyball. According to McCardell, her passion for the game was intertwined with her bond with her sister.
“When I was little, my older sister played club volleyball so I was always at her tournaments, always on the side peppering with my other sister and just kind of fell in love with it from there,” McCardell said. “I was always around the game and so my parents threw both me and my sister into the sport.”
Sports has always run through the McCardell family. Keandra McCardell became a star volleyball player at the University of Houston, while twin sister Naykeea McCardell plays on the women’s lacrosse team at the University of Clemson. Her father, Keenan McCardell, played for 12 years in the National Football League, winning two Super Bowls. Although her family’s success sparked McCardell’s passion for sports, she said that at times she feels like she lives in the shadow of her family’s success.
“When I was younger, I wanted to start a new legacy,” McCardell said. “[My father’s] athletic background and his knowledge really pushed me and my sisters but I just wanted to create my own name.”
Despite the desire to create her own image, McCardell has made sure to not stray too far from her family. Each of the four women in the McCardell family has a vertical tattoo of four small, individual heart outlines, representing their birth order — Nia is the third.
“My older sister has been such a big supporter of me,” McCardell said. “When I was little, just seeing her work ethic on and off the core and just having that role model early on was great.”
That support helped McCardell develop her game and eventually make her way to Rice, fulfilling her dream of playing collegiate volleyball. As a freshman, McCardell contributed immediately as a starting libero and then defensive specialist. Last year, as a junior, McCardell was not only the starting libero but one of the team’s veterans. Now, as she goes into her senior year, she is beginning to embrace her role as a vocal team leader.
Her growth translated into success on the court, with McCardell earning accolades such as Conference-USA Libero of the Year award, while helping the Owls win the C-USA Championship where they defeated rival Western Kentucky University.
“It was the best feeling ever,” McCardell said. “There were so many tears shed because it had been a long time coming and especially against Western Kentucky in their own gym. It felt like we had to finally accomplish what we’ve been working for since we got to Rice. It was a good way to leave C-USA.”
Looking forward, McCardell, a sport management major, is ready to capitalize on the combination of her academic pursuits with her passion for personal branding and marketing. However, the end goal is to continue her volleyball career and, with the emergence of a new American professional volleyball league, McCardell said that that reality seems increasingly more possible.
“I still get that question: ‘Do you want to go pro?’” McCardell said. “That’s definitely in the back of my mind, especially with the new league that is starting this year. It would be a great opportunity if I were to get drafted. Try to maximize my career as long as I can but if that doesn’t work out, working with a professional team doing social media or marketing is definitely a goal.”
Now, with the volleyball career that McCardell is putting a bow on and the success that she is experiencing in media and marketing, she has a new answer when asked if she has made a new name for herself.
“I definitely have.”
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