Parental Perspective: Dean's Mother's Day gift provides a positive example of NIL

May 18, 2022 | 0 comments

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A common gift parents give their children on holidays is a vehicle. However, for Florida safety Trey Dean, this past Mother's Day was a chance to turn the tables to reward a special woman in his life – his mother.

Dean’s mother Kai Dean, who sold her previous car in order to help start a family business, had been pestered by her son to purchase a replacement but had yet to do so.

With funds from an NIL deal, Trey took matters into his own hands and gifted her a Jeep, creating a memory between a mother and son who have a bond stronger than most.

It was a bit of a process surprising his mother. Trey explained that the vehicle was delivered a couple of days before the special day, therefore it had to be placed at a neighbor’s home.

“Actually, she had been seeing it for like three days,” Trey said. “She never knew the car was for her.”

On Mother’s Day, the family began the day by going to brunch. From there they continued the celebration at their neighborhood’s clubhouse, where Trey said it took some convincing to get his mom to go outside for the surprise.

“I said, ‘Mom, can you come outside with me?’” Trey explained. “She was like, ‘No, no. I don’t want to go outside. It’s too hot.’ I said, ‘Just come outside. Just come outside.’ She finally came outside, opened the garage and the rest is history.”


Kai Dean Facebook

Although the Jeep itself did not come directly from an NIL sponsorship with a dealership, according to Trey, the funds used to purchase the vehicle itself came because of NIL deals.

Trey said the decision to purchase a Jeep over other cars was an easy decision to make.

“I know my mom does a lot of hard work, so I wanted something nice and durable,” he explained. “I know she’s big on SUVs. She’s a Florida girl, so she’s able to take the doors off. It was like a one-stop-shop: a nice luxury truck that she can still be a Florida girl in.”

Trey’s gift to Kai goes farther back than the fact that his mom needed a car, and the fact that he had the means to buy her one. It’s about giving back to someone who has sacrificed their life for him and about a special bond shared between the two.

Kai said the special bond started through her work in non-profits, where Trey would be there right by her side.

“I did a lot of work and I still do a lot of work in non-profits, and I used to take Trey to all of my non-profits,” she explained. “So, he and I got a lot closer because I would take him to work with me.”

Kai believes these experiences shaped her son’s personality and made Trey the caring young man he is today.

“Trey really cares about people, and a lot of people don’t really know that,” she said. “A lot of the football players, he cares about them and their dreams the way he cares about his own. Anything my son can do to help someone; he will do it.”

This personality trait, as well as a strong work ethic, is shared between the two, Kai said.

“She has made me who I am today,” Trey also explained. “She’s instilled in me strong faith, especially with God. She’s taught me everything I know.”

Kai’s work ethic not only extends to her work in non-profits, where she said she has 15 years of consulting experience but through the sacrifices, she has made for her son.

“… getting a football player, ask any parent, to the level of where Trey has been blessed to be, there’s a lot of sacrifices that families have made. It’s a lot more than anyone ever thinks,” Kai explained.

Kai detailed that the family had to fundraise for Trey’s 7-on-7 teams as well as pay for travel on recruiting trips.

“Our family has done a lot of things so that we could afford Trey the opportunity for the exposure that he needed because he always wanted to go to an SEC school. That was his dream.”

For Trey, buying a car was a no-brainer, especially for someone who has already sacrificed so much for her family.

Kai sold her previous car to help start Cubano Cigars, a family-owned business led by her husband.

“Our family launched our family business about a year and a half ago. When you go into a new business and you launch a new business, there’s a lot upfront that you have to do,” she said. “We did a little shifting. I personally gave up my car so that we could invest in some other things that we needed in order to further run our business more effectively.”

The story of Cubano Cigars begins with Thaddeus Thomas Dean Jr., Kai’s husband and Trey’s father, and his Cuban heritage.

According to Cubano Cigars’ website, Dean Jr.’s family lineage in the cigar industry traces back all the way to the early 1800’s with his Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather Geronimo Falco, who was “a skilled torcedor (cigar roller), that taught his four sons how to be skilled cigar rollers.”

From there, the skill was passed down for generations, leading Dean Jr. to create the business as a “legacy tribute to his Cuban Cigar Heritage for generations to come,” according to the business’ website.

“My husband went back and revived the business after 75 years,” Kai said. “It took him six years to go back and align the business.”

The Dean’s launched the business right before the COVID-19 pandemic, but Kai said the business has thrived, nonetheless.

“It’s been a very good journey for us. I can’t tell you how many doors have opened for us because we are truly an African American based cigar company where we have Cuban-seeded grown in Nicaragua,” she said. “It’s an amazing story. We have utilized this business in so many ways in teaching others how to create their own passive income.”

As the family business continued to grow and become successful, Kai also sees growth in her son’s personal life.

“As a parent, we want all of our kids to be financially stable. That’s always been my prayer for my children,” Kai said. “With Trey thinking of me and being concerned, it just shows me how much he’s growing up. He’s become a man.”

For Trey, giving back to his mother gives him motivation on and off the field, especially because of all the work and sacrifices she has made behind the scenes.

“It was special for me being a college athlete. The Lord really blessed me with being able to provide for my mom,” he explained. “It was really humbling.”

“It actually gives me a lot of motivation to go out on the football field each and every time to give it my all not only for God but for her as well because I know all the hard work she does behind closed doors,” he added. “A lot of people don’t see it. So, I don’t want it to ever go unnoticed. That’s just a little token that I can give her through everything that she has brought me through in life.”

Kai explained that Trey’s personal growth over the last year showed her that he is stepping into adulthood and ready to make tough decisions.

“One of the things that was so inspiring to me as a parent is that Trey has grown. He began at the University of Florida when he was 17 and this past year, he turned 21,” she said. “It was the first time that I could see he has really gotten into his path of being a young man and that he was well-prepared to make heavy decisions.”

Trey’s first decision came after the 2021 Gasparilla Bowl loss to UCF, where Trey had to decide between declaring for the NFL Draft or returning to college.

With a degree in his hand and a chance to go pro, Trey ultimately decided to stay at Florida for one more year, a decision he said was very hard. However, he said his mom was always in his corner and ready to support him no matter what.

“I was the first Florida player to get a Combine invite. My mom never pressured me. She knew that both decisions would be great,” he said.

“He came up with very realistic reasons why he felt he needed to stay, and we support him in that,” Kai explained. “Thus far, he has been right. There was great opportunity that he could have had, but we’re just going to pray over him and pray that God allows him the opportunity to be considered as a draft candidate next spring.”

Trey added that NIL was not a major factor in his decision to stay.

“NIL played a small part of it,” he said. “At the end of the day, I play the game of football because I really love to play the game of football. If I really wanted the money, I could’ve just gone to the NFL.”


Kai Dean Facebook

For the Deans, a deciding factor was the coaching change. Kai said the family began to lose trust with the previous staff, but with a new staff coming in, they wanted to be sure the new staff would put Trey in a position to be successful.

The thing that stood out the most for the Deans about Billy Napier was his history coaching under Nick Saban.

“Trust factor was something that unfortunately we lost a little of (with the previous staff). Trust was very important for us,” Kai explained. “Trust is hard in the collegiate area because there’s so many different players when it comes to running a football team. So, the background of Coach Napier being from Nick Saban’s lineage, that’s a power lineage to come out from under.”

Additionally, the Deans are loosely connected to Napier through former Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper, who Kai said is a distant cousin.

“We know Amari Cooper’s story, and we’re very big researchers. So, we researched Coach Napier before he ever got there,” she said.

According to Kai, the turning point in her son’s decision was the hiring of cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond.

“When they brought Corey Raymond over, it was a no-brainer for Trey at that point that Coach Napier was doing all that he could do in his means to build the right people around him,” she said. “He’s done that.”

For the Deans, it’s so far so good in the early stages of the Napier-era.

“He’s done what he’s said he’s going to do,” she said. “The only thing that you can do is hold a man to his word because that’s all we have is our word. Our word is our bond.”

A trait prevalent through the Napier-era so far is the importance of NIL at Florida.

Since NIL laws went into effect in the summer of 2021, the University of Florida has been a leader and continues to do so with organizations such as the Gator Guard and Gator Collective. Dean says NIL is something that instantly comes with being affiliated with the university.

“NIL is second nature, especially with the Florida brand,” Trey said. “It’s a global brand. So, Coach Napier is using it the right way. Not only with recruits, but to help our team become better with the ultimate goal to win a national championship.”

For Trey personally, being an example of the positive side of the NIL world is something that inspires him to find ways to impact lives and something that comes as a result of how he was raised.

“When you’re able to control a lot of money at a young age, it really shows what type of parenting my parents have done, especially my mom,” he said. “I really just wake up every day and figure out a way, with how God has blessed me with this NIL and cash flow, that I can impact lives differently.”

“I know a lot of people play the game of football for different reasons, but it feels good that I can show people how to use NIL in a great way and in a great light to be a stepping stone and building block for others.”


If you would like to support Trey Dean's decision to return to Florida for one last season, please visit his website to purchase his branded t-shirts 

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