This Pitt Football Player Is Using NIL to Aid Haiti

University of Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Deslin Alexandre's 5th Down Campaign is raising money to help youth in his hometown of Cap-Haitien, Haiti.
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  • University of Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Deslin Alexandre founded The 5th Down Campaign to support youth in Haiti.
  • The nonprofit is a partnership with the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation, which was already providing aid to youth in the nation.
  • Alexandre was born in Haiti and brought to America by his mother when he was 3.

University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) defensive lineman Deslin Alexandre is capitalizing on his success on the football field to help youth in home country of Haiti.

Alexandre, 24, was brought to America by his mother when he was 3 and grew up in South Florida, but his connection to Haiti remains strong.

So, when the NCAA introduced its name, image, and likeness (NIL) policy in 2021, he wanted to use his success on the football field to support Haitian youth.

Last summer, Alexandre founded The 5th Down Campaign in partnership with the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation (PKF). The campaign is aiming to raise $50,000 to provide basic needs like nutritious meals, school supplies, and a quality education for kids in Alexandre's hometown of Cap-Haitien, Haiti.

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"On the field, we have four downs," Alexandre told BestColleges. "I called it The 5th Down Campaign to give kids another opportunity, another down. I've been blessed in so many ways. I feel like I've had a bunch of extra opportunities, and sometimes we all need that extra down in life."

The partnership was a perfect fit because PKF has a longstanding relationship with a Haitian-led community development organization called IDADEE, which runs schools in Cap-Haitien and serves over 300 students and their families.

Each donation to The 5th Down Campaign goes toward IDADEE and supports the health and educational needs of children in Cap-Haitien. As of Nov. 14, the campaign has raised $13,179 and is still accepting donations.

Originally, Alexandre, who graduated from Pitt with a bachelor's degree in communication and is now pursuing his MBA at the university's Katz Graduate School of Business, wanted to start a 501(c)(3) on his own. Then he learned about PKF's work in Haiti.

Joel Gray, PKF's network director, told BestColleges he was incredibly excited when Alexandre contacted the organization to learn more about its work in Haiti.

"He's the captain of (the Pitt Panthers) for a reason," Gray said. "He's well-polished and very ambitious in wanting to be a difference maker and not taking his life journey for granted. I pray he has great success. I think young athletes need more role models like Deslin."

NIL Opens Doors for Philanthropy

Alexandre's philanthropy is possible because of the NCAA's NIL policy, which allows athletes to make endorsement deals, cash in on social media, and get paid for such things as making personal appearances, signing autographs, and even endorsing political candidates.

But it also allows college athletes to support charitable organizations, said Bill Lawrence, an attorney for the Burr & Forman law firm in Alabama, who has advised NCAA member institutions, college athletes, athletic agents, and NIL collectives on NIL matters.

As long as a college athlete is performing services in order to be paid, Lawrence told BestColleges, the NCAA can't regulate how a college athlete uses funds that come from an NIL deal.

"The NCAA doesn't dictate what an athlete can do with money he or she receives. If a player wants to use it for philanthropy, that is fine from the NCAA's standpoint," he said.

While Alexandre's international philanthropy efforts are groundbreaking, other college athletes have used NIL to support charitable organizations.

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In fact, Alexandre first realized he could make a difference via NIL after watching his former Pitt teammate Cal Adomitis raise more than $100,000 for UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

"I've always had a heart to give, and that's something my mom instilled in me at a young age. It's always great to see players make money off their likeness," said Alexandre. "I saw an opportunity to use my name, image, and likeness to give back to other people and shed light (on Haiti) and help out that way."

National Recognition for Charity Work

In September, Alexandre was named to the 2022 Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team, which recognizes college football student-athletes for their dedication to community service and the positive impact they have made on the lives of others.

He's one of 22 players named to the team, which was selected from a nationwide pool of 114 nominees.

"Deslin is a leader. On and off the field, he represents the absolute best of what it means to be a Pitt football player," Pitt Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi said in a statement lauding Alexandre's selection to the Good Works Team. "We are incredibly proud of Deslin and this honor is so well deserved."

Alexandre earned that honor for his record of community service, which stretches from Pittsburgh to Haiti.

Beyond his work on The 5th Down Campaign, Alexandre has worked with the Make-A-Wish foundation and is also a fixture at Divine Mercy Parish, a Catholic church in Pittsburgh. He works with the church's Red Door program, which provides meals and clothing for Pittsburghers in need.

As he wraps his final season of college football eligibility and prepares for Pitt's final regular season game against the University of Miami, Alexandre continues to be thankful for his ability to make a difference — on the playing field and in Haiti.

"I think the opportunity to be able to help someone else is just something I'm blessed with," Alexandre said. "It's more personal because these are my people. And being able to help them means the world to me."