TAMPA, Fla. - To be the best, Laney Higgins knows that sometimes you’ve got to dig a little deeper.

That’s why this Carrollwood Day School senior doesn’t mind putting in the extras hours on the volleyball court. Why she practices every chance she gets. And why she is planning her future around the sport.

“Volleyball’s definitely built my work ethic,” Laney said.

After high school, Laney will take her volleyball talents to Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. She’s preparing for volleyball at the next level. 

“I love the competition and it makes me feel like I’m another world,” Laney said. “It’s definitely two different worlds. Stressful school to being calm in my own element, basically.”

During the day, Laney is your typical high school student. But volleyball’s helped her become a trailblazer of sorts. Laney is one of the first high school student-athletes in the nation to sign an NIL, a deal that allows student-athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness.

“It’s more about matching the right player to the right company,” she said. “And for me, that’s Q-Collar. I’m very passionate about protecting athletes brains.”

The money Laney makes through her NIL deal with Q-Collar, a device that increases blood volume inside the head to reduce brain movement, will benefit the USF Concussion Center. They helped her recover from concussions and Laney wants to help others in similar situations. 

Florida High School Athletic Association bylaws prevent student-athletes from profiting during their seasons. But since volleyball season is over, Laney can blaze her trail. 

Her father Rob Higgins, the Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission sees this as the wave of the future.

“I think you’re going to continue to see companies and brands understand that there is a lot of value in different athletes stories,” Higgins said.

Laney’s story continues to be told with the help of volleyball. The sport has taken her to places she could only dream of. 

And now, it’s setting her up for a future of endless possibilities.

“Volleyball’s really built my confidence as well as how hard I work on and off the court,” Laney said.