July 11, 2023

First Purchasers of Game Seats on the SI Tickets Marketplace for Upcoming Texas Gridiron Classic Powered by Prospects by SI to Receive Free Limited Edition
‘PSI Elite Five Rated Prospect’ NFT Collectibles  

(New York, N.Y., and Irving, Texas) – July 11, 2023 – An elite group of the nation’s top youth football players will be commemorated by Panini America with their very own “Rookie” NFT trading card. The world’s largest sports and entertainment collectibles company will mint and issue a limited edition “PSI Elite Five Rated Prospect” NFT Collectibles set featuring the name, image and likeness of five of the country’s top rising stars on Panini’s private blockchain platform. Each of the five players, ages 5 to 16, and among the youngest ever to appear on a Panini rookie card, will receive an ultra-rare, “one of one” NFT version of their card.

The first fans who purchase tickets to the Texas Gridiron Classic powered by Prospects by SI (PSI) at SI Tickets, the fan-first ticketing site from Sports Illustrated, will be rewarded with a free, randomly selected NFT trading card from the exclusive, limited edition set of these five aspiring athletes. Fans who purchase tickets closer to the event will receive an alternate limited edition NFT collectible, free of charge.

Tickets for the football showcase, which is expected to see 600 youth players competing over three days, is scheduled for July 28-30, in Arlington, Texas, and are now available for purchase at SITickets, the exclusive ticketing provider for all Prospects by Sports Illustrated events. All fans will receive SI Tickets’ all-new NFT Super Ticket™, where the barcodes become engaging content for fans before, during and after the game, improving the fan experience with extras like this Panini NFT player trading card. Every ticket holder will also receive their own SI Fan Cover from the game and a $10 wallet credit to apply toward sports, concerts and theater seats on the SI Tickets marketplace.

“SI Tickets is excited to demonstrate the capabilities of our blockchain ticket platform Box Office showcasing how the ticket can truly improve the fan experience.” said David Lane, CEO, SI Tickets. “Many young athletes dream one day of appearing on their very own rookie card, and this Panini limited edition pack is a special honor these athletes and their family and friends will cherish for a lifetime. This unique commemorative offering will deliver an unparalleled opportunity for Texas Gridiron Classic fans to share in this moment.”

The limited-edition PSI Big Five Rated Prospect NFT Collectables will be headlined by Akili Smith Jr., 16, a quarterback from San Diego, who threw for nearly 2,500 yards and 29 touchdowns last fall. He is the son of Akili Smith Sr., the No. 3 overall NFL draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1999. Smith Jr. will be a high school junior this fall. 

“We’re excited to work with SI Tickets and Prospects by Sports Illustrated for the Texas Gridiron Classic. Every kid’s dream growing up is to one day have their own trading card, and with the emergence of NFT sports collectibles, this is an opportunity for these five elite kids to get their own NFT trading card,” said Jason Howarth, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Athlete Relations at Panini America. “The delivery of first-of-its-kind NFT trading cards for these future stars was just a natural and authentic alignment.”

This outstanding group also includes: Khalial Bailey, 11, a native of New Orleans, who lines up at quarterback, cornerback, linebacker and free safety, and is a member of the class 2030; Cade Bynnom-Williams, 13, a Waco, Texas, product who plays quarterback and safety, and is a two-time AAU Unrestricted National champion; Dylan Granzo, 13, a running back and outside linebacker from Mays Landing, N.J.; and Joseph Handle IV, a 13-year-old nationally ranked quarterback from Brigantine, N.J., who is a member of the class of 2028.

This is the second of several football events this summer by Prospects by SI, which provides youth athletes with the opportunity to compete on a global sports platform.

“The lineup of young athletes we have participating in our Prospects by SI football events this summer is incredibly talented,” said Ace Carney, President, U.S. Division Football, Basketball, Cheer & Dance of Prospects by Sports Illustrated. “It’s very possible that one day, you’ll see a number of these kids playing in college on Saturdays and perhaps even in the pros on Sundays. The opportunity to work together with SI Tickets and Panini America to commemorate a cadre of rising youth players with their own Panini Rated Prospect PSI Big Five NFT card at this early stage in their playing career is pretty special. And through SI Tickets’ Box Office our barcodes not only get every fan in the door for Texas Gridiron Classic but transform into these rare Panini digital trading cards for all attendees to enjoy.”

SI Tickets’ Super Ticket™ is part of the recently launched  “Box Office by SI Tickets,” an innovative event management and primary ticketing solution built in partnership with ConsenSys and powered by Polygon’s blockchain technology. Box Office is the first global platform to combine a complete NFT ticket solution for events of any size with visibility and adjacency to traditional, non-NFT tickets alongside the biggest in sports, concert and theater on the SI Tickets marketplace.

About SI Tickets

First launched in June 2021, SI Tickets by Sports Illustrated puts the fan experience first. In addition to charging zero ($0) transaction fees on any purchase, SI Tickets also guarantees a 100-percent refund if an event is canceled for any reason. The marketplace has over $2.5 billion of inventory and more than 50 million tickets to over 250,000 sports, concerts and theater productions. SI Tickets also operates Box Office, an innovative, self-service event management and blockchain-backed primary ticketing solution. Box Office is the first global platform to combine a complete NFT ticket solution for events of any size with visibility and adjacency to traditional, non-NFT tickets alongside the aforementioned SI Tickets marketplace.

For more information, visit, or download the app on iOS and Android.

About Panini America

Panini America is a subsidiary of The Panini Group, established over 60 years ago in Modena, Italy with  subsidiaries throughout Europe, Latin America and the United States.  Panini is the world leader in officially licensed collectibles and is the most significant publisher of collectibles in the U.S., with official licenses for NASCAR, NFL, NFLPA, NBA, NBPA, FIFA, UFC, WWE, College, Disney and other key properties from many other licensors. Panini is also the exclusive trading card and sticker partner of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Elite 11 and Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc.

Panini has distribution channels in more than 150 countries and employs a staff of over 1,200. For more information visit us at, You can also follow Panini America on social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

About Prospects by Sports Illustrated

Prospects by Sports Illustrated™ (PSI) is committed to elevating the youth sports industry and providing youth athletes with the opportunity to compete on a global platform. From tournaments and rankings to content and more, Prospects by Sports Illustrated™ delivers a world-class experience for parents, coaches and teams. Specializing in the planning and operation of youth sports tournaments at the highest levels of competition, PSI brings teams together from across North America and Europe to gain exposure, compete and have fun.

For more information, visit