Jamie Ortega, a four-time All-American who is returning to North Carolina for a fifth season, could break the Division I points and goals records in the 2022 season. But before stepping onto the field for her final campaign, she’s already making history.
Today, the UNC lacrosse star announced her new endorsement deal with Epoch Lacrosse, making her the company’s first female lacrosse athlete partner.
Made possible by new rules passed in July that allow NCAA athletes to profit off of their name, image, and likeness (NIL), Ortega is the first major domino to fall in the college women’s lacrosse game.
“Female athletes have been making huge strides in every sport,” Jamie Ortega said. “I’m happy to be one of them in lacrosse and to be a voice and platform for young generations of girls.”
In addition to sporting products such as Epoch’s Purpose 15 and Dragonfly Elite, Ortega has been working with the company to design her own apparel line, which will feature clothing for leisure and athletics. It’s set to run later this year.
The player said she’s always been interested in fashion, and having the opportunity to grow in a new area that’s previously piqued her curiosity is thrilling. She doesn’t take the responsibility lightly.
“It’s my product line,” Ortega said. “Epoch is helping me with it, but I’m the main on designing it and figuring out what I want exactly. This is who I am, what I’m going to stand for. It’s going to be my brand, so I’m putting a lot of thought and energy into designing this apparel line.
“I never thought I would be making an apparel line, but now here I am,” she continued. “I have ideas coming through me. It’s exciting to see what will unfold.”
Ortega has come a long way from when she picked up her first stick in second grade. She found the game because one of her father’s coworkers suggested he have his daughter play – little did he know what doors he was opening for her.
At that time, there was no NIL, no professional women’s lacrosse, and no big goal to achieve other than having fun. But as Ortega has progressed, so too has lacrosse, and specifically the women’s game.
“Once I figured out my strengths and how good I could be, I didn’t want to stop,” Ortega said. “During freshman year, I was like, ‘Wow, I just want to play this sport forever.’ Seeing a pro league develop and how different but exciting it is, I want to be a part of that. To be a part of something so big and monumental to women’s lacrosse, it’s hard not to want to be a part of it.”
The time for that hasn’t come quite yet, but Ortega’s signature with Epoch brings her one step closer to the ultimate goal: making a living off of lacrosse.
It’s a recent phenomenon that lacrosse players in general can survive financially just through their sport, let alone women playing the game. But that’s been changing, with the growth of the sport and athletes like Kylie Ohlmiller paving the way for how it can be done, Ortega said.
“She set the standard for a lot of us and was the role model in showing that you can be just a professional lacrosse player and make a proper living,” Ortega explained. “Now the next generation is like, ‘She does it, so I feel like I can do that.’ More of us learn from one another. I can be a strong women’s lacrosse player, I can be a female athlete, and I can make a living off of lacrosse and grow my own brand.”
The Tar Heel said she hopes her deal with Epoch and future accomplishments in lacrosse can do the same for girls and women who come after her.
“I want to be a great role model for younger generations of girls,” Ortega explained. “I want to show them that you can go professional, and you can live out your dreams as a female athlete. My biggest goal is to show them that they can do it.”
For Jamie Ortega personally, her deal with Epoch is incredible – it puts her on the professional path early and sets her up to turn lacrosse into a full-time financer. She sees a greater opportunity, though, one that can do more than just help pay bills.
“We look up to Serena Williams, we look up to Mia Hamm,” Ortega said. “If I can be one of those girls who eventually is a role model, then I feel like I’m doing everything I need to do in life.”