MISSOULA – Bayliss Flynn celebrated her birthday on Tuesday, signed a name, image and likeness contract on Wednesday and headed to a pre-pro league football game on Thursday.
Flynn, a football player from the Montana Grizzlies, is certainly busy. But the goaltender from the state couldn’t help it, especially when she’s doing what she loves at the highest level, forging her own path that turns out to be historic.
Flynn became the youngest player on the Minnesota Aurora earlier this year. Now the first high school athlete in Minnesota to sign a NIL contract, she is only a few days old as a 17-year-old fearless, adventurous and demonstrating to others that they can dream big.
“Both of my parents taught me to just not be afraid not to follow the pack and just put myself in my place, there’s nothing wrong with trying,” she said. “Since I’m also an only child, I really didn’t have anyone to guide me, so I know I have to prove myself.
“I saw my mother Mary (Lahammer) always go all out and work hard because she is a TV reporter. I am very inspired by her, her work ethic and how dedicated she is to her work.”
Flynn signed the NIL agreement eight days after the Minnesota High School League began allowing athletes to sign such agreements. Compensation may not be performance-based or used as an incentive to recruit, among other things, to maintain amateur athlete status.
As of June 1, nine state associations have allowed NIL deals, according to Business of College Sports, although the Montana High School Association does not allow such deals under Article II, Sections 15 and 16 of its bylaws. The NCAA began allowing NIL trades effective July 1, 2021.
“All social networks continue to fill up my phone,” she said. “It’s still surreal. I didn’t have much time to stop and think about it. But it was an amazing experience. Everything happened so quickly.”
Flynn’s deal is with TruStone Financial, a credit union that is one of the founding sponsors of the Minnesota Aurora Football Club. She met them at the team’s uniform launch earlier this year at the Mall of America. The terms of her deal were not disclosed, but she will be promoting Aurora-branded credit and debit cards.
The opportunity allows Flynn to advocate for financial literacy and education among peers in her community, where she is already trying to make an impact as a youth goaltending coach. Since she is a minor, her mother also had to sign the deal.
“They seem to fit well,” she said. “This is a company from Minnesota and Wisconsin, and I loved this connection to my hometown. They have strong values as they are also owned by the community, just like Aurora. The CEO (Dale Turner) values and respects women in sports and women in leadership positions, and I think he definitely wants to elevate women.”
Flynn’s chance to play for Aurora FC came when she was spotted competing for the Minnesota Elite Club League’s Minnesota Thunder Academy, the top tier of women’s youth football in the country. The Aurora posted a 4-0-1 record on Friday night’s game to top the WL USL Heartland Division, which is one level below the National Women’s Football League.
Flynn was 16 when she joined an amateur league team to keep players eligible for high school and college. She has yet to play the game, but has learned lessons from veterans at age 25, such as how to adapt as she heads to college.
“I could already see the huge community support around the team with donations and money from all over the country,” she said. “This is a community team led by women, which is very important to me. There are so many season ticket holders that we have 5,000 fans for almost every game, which is great. I really wanted to be a representative of my state and my community.”
Montana coach Chris Chitowicki coached Flynn’s ECNL club program many years ago, though she doesn’t remember the two ever crossing paths there. He has now led Grizzly to five regular season or Big Sky Conference tournament titles and three NCAA Tournament berths in four seasons.
Flynn will join UM in 2023 after completing his senior year at Edina High School, which was ranked #1 in the nation in the fall. She has previously moved club teams as well as high schools in search of the best in sports, academics and inclusivity. She believes she found it again in UM.
“I learned how wonderful the coaching staff was, how they really care about you as a person and how they want you to grow not only as a footballer but also as a person, and they want you to succeed in the future, she said, and later added: “The program is definitely gaining momentum. They regularly travel to the NCAA Tournament. It’s just a great team factor.”