How East Bay quarterback Jaden Rashada became a major player in NIL phenomenon

Jaden Rashada has been profiled by the Wall Street Journal. His ongoing recruiting drama has made headlines on ESPN’s home page and in the New York Post.

In this new era of college athletics, one that allows independent booster-driven fundraising arms to pay athletes for their Name, Image and Likeness, Rashada reportedly has been offered millions.

How did he get here?

How did an East Bay quarterback who played his freshman season as a backup at Liberty High School in Brentwood, had a brief stint at renowned Florida powerhouse IMG Academy and spent the past three seasons (one spring, two falls) as Pittsburg’s quarterback become one of the faces of the NIL phenomenon?

Rashada, 19, did not lead Pittsburg to a state championship. He did not set state passing records. He wasn’t even the best quarterback in his own section last fall, at least statistically, even though he had three Division I-bound receivers at his disposal.

But that hasn’t stopped some of college football’s top programs from doing what they can to lure the 6-foot-4, 185-pound Rashada to their campus.

Pittsburg quarterback Jaden Rashada warms up before a game against McClymonds on Sept. 30, 2022. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

If college football is about winning the sport’s two seasons — actual games and recruiting — Rashada is thought to be a home run for the latter. Whether he lives up to his five-star billing remains to be seen.

“Everything with Jaden is based on projection and upside because he doesn’t have the pretty resume other guys do,” 247Sports national recruiting editor Brandon Huffman told the Bay Area News Group last summer. “But he’s got as much upside, if not more, than any other quarterback in this class. I watched him for the first time in ninth grade, and I’ve said that this is a kid whose best football will be played in college.”

Rashada is the perfect quarterback where it often matters for high-profile skill players: 7-on-7 showcase camps in which recruiting experts grade and college coaches and boosters observe.

At those camps, which do not include offensive and defensive linemen, Rashada is a Joe Burrow or a Patrick Mahomes. As one source said, he makes all the throws with pinpoint and jaw-dropping accuracy. Couple that with his measurables — it never hurts for a QB to be 6-4 — and arm strength and, well, you have a guy who leaves boosters reaching into their bank accounts and coaches offering scholarships.

“He’s got all the physical ability in the world,” said Brian Stumpf, president of Elite 11, a high-profile camp for top quarterback talent. “I think the sky is the limit for him.”

Physical tools are not the primary reason Rashada made headlines. He made them because of the NIL dollars he was reportedly offered for those tools, first when he made an oral commitment last summer to play at the University of Miami and then when he flipped in November to the University of Florida.

The Miami deal was reportedly worth in excess of $9 million, a figure Rashada denied in a social-media post and refused to address when asked to be interviewed last season. Florida’s independent fundraising arm, Gator Collective, later made a $13.5 million deal over four years with Rashada, and on Nov. 10 the quarterback accepted, according to The Athletic.

Rashada signed a letter of intent — a traditional binding agreement between colleges and athletes — to play for Florida in December. He planned to enroll for the spring semester, which is not uncommon for high-profile football players. They finish high school early to get a head start with their college teams.

But the deal with Gator Collective fell apart. Reports as to why vary. The Associated Press, citing a source close to the negotiation, reported that not all the financial supporters in the Gator Collective were aware that Rashada’s NIL contract had jumped from about $5 million to more than $13 million. Texas-bound quarterback Arch Manning, Cooper’s son and Peyton and Eli’s nephew, reportedly is worth $3.5 million on the NIL market. Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams of USC has a reported NIL valuation in the $3 million range.

Is Rashada worth as much as Manning or Williams?

With the NIL deal in Florida no longer on the table, Rashada did not show up for spring classes. At the time, his dad, Harlen, told 247Sports in response to an On3 Sports report that the QB asked out of the letter of intent, “We’re working through some things right now with Florida and hoping that they get resolved soon.”

A few days later, Rashada asked to be released from the letter of intent. Florida granted the request last week even though Rashada was said to be the “jewel” of its recruiting class.

Back on the market, the quarterback reportedly made an unofficial visit last weekend to Arizona State, where Harlen played defensive back in the early 1990s. Rashada plans to visit TCU this weekend, according to ESPN.

The next letter of intent signing period begins Wednesday.

Rashada has stayed silent since speaking optimistically about Florida at a national high school all-star game in Orlando during the holidays. He told The Athletic that he was aiming to gain 25 pounds by the summer.

“I promise you, I’m going to be a whole different person in June,” Rashada said.

Pittsburg head coach thanks his quarterback Jaden Rashada (5) during the final minutes of the fourth quarter of the 2022 CIF State Football Championship Division 1-A game at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)Pittsburg coach Victor Galli shakes hands with quarterback Jaden Rashada during the final minutes of the fourth quarter of the CIF Division 1-A state championship game at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo on Dec. 10, 2022. Liberty-Bakersfield won 48-20. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group). 

The quarterback’s high school coaches just want the saga to end and for their former star to finally start focusing on football.

When the Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling in June 2021 that opened the door for athletes to be paid for their Name, Image and Likeness, nobody knew that an East Bay high school quarterback would be in the middle of the wild frontier that the era has become.

“I know the whole process has been pretty stressful for him before all of this stuff,” Victor Galli, who coached Rashada at Pittsburg, said last week. “I thought it was over where he could just dive in and play some football and really hone in on the tremendous talent that he is and hopefully have a chance to do some really good things in college and maybe play on Sunday someday.

“I just want this (stuff) to end for him so he can concentrate on being a college student and playing football and having fun. I know he loves the game. I feel bad for him. I want this to end for him so he can go and do what he was born to do.”

That could happen, as early as next week.

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