NIL Just Went the High School Football Route, and the First—Jaden Rashada—May End Up Being the Best
The first high school football player to ever secure an NIL is from a place called Pittsburg, minus the ‘h,’ and walks around…minus pretentiousness.
Jaden Rashada, the No. 1 rated dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2023, has an accurate arm, swift feet, long legs, high IQ and a heart two sizes too generous. The football recruiting app named AIR (Athletes in Recruitment) that signed him to a four-figure endorsement deal last month could not have picked a more grounded high school junior—unless you don’t like an 18-year-old who spends his Christmas feeding the homeless.
“Honestly, my goal is to be somebody who’s remembered forever,’’ says Rashada. “I want to change people’s lives.’’
The era of the Name, Image and Likeness is upon us, and for those who thought it would corrupt both college and high school athletes, the early returns are: not so fast.
AIR’s founder and CEO, the Australian-born former SMU punter James Sackville, says he dove headfirst into the prep ranks “because, I think, everyone else was a little afraid, to be honest with you, and I think we just don’t care. We’re like, ‘Hey, we’re going to be first movers in everything that we do.’ And it was legal. It wasn’t a matter of legality.’’
To be exact, the only states currently allowing all of their high school athletes to be compensated for NIL are New York, New Jersey, Alaska, Nebraska and Rashada’s home state of California. Knowing practically nothing about Pittsburg—a quaint, blue-collar town 40 miles east of San Francisco—Sackville at least had the wherewithal to scroll down a list of top-rated California quarterbacks, a guaranteed hotbed. In milliseconds, he grew enthralled by Rashada’s video, stats, curls and Twitter feed.