Jaden Rashada, one of the best quarterbacks in next year's college football recruiting class, is already cashing in on his budding fame by signing his first endorsement deal, with a recruiting app company, this week.
Rashada, who wrapped up his junior season in Pittsburg, California, as ESPN's top-rated dual-threat quarterback in the 2023 recruiting class, will be paid a four-figure sum to help promote the AIR (Athletes in Recruitment) app via social media posts.
While some high school basketball players have signed endorsement deals in recent months, Rashada is believed to be the first high school football player to profit from endorsements since the NCAA changed rules this summer that previously would have made Rashada ineligible to play in college if he accepted money.
"It feels pretty good," Rashada told ESPN. "Maybe it can open up more opportunities for others and people can be more aware of it. It's a blessing to be able to make some money and promote a good brand."
The coveted prospect said he plans to narrow down his list of potential college destinations to his six top choices at some point in the next couple of months. He doesn't think that NIL earning potential will be a factor in where he decides to play.
The ability for NCAA athletes to make money from the rights of their names, images and likenesses was among the most significant changes during a tumultuous year for college sports, but the impact it has on the high school level remains murky in many areas. California is one of at least five states (along with Alaska, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York) that allow high school athletes to accept endorsement money without jeopardizing their eligibility to keep playing.
According to industry experts at Opendorse, there are 15 states that expressly prohibit high schoolers from cashing in on athletic fame either via state law or through their high school sports associations. Most of the country, though, does not have clearly defined rules for high school athletes.
Rashada said he did some of his own research to make sure he was allowed to explore endorsement deals. He also worked with an adviser, Ethan Weinstein, to help secure his first deal. Weinstein is a college junior who represents a handful of college athletes in NIL deals. He has previously worked in the University of Wisconsin recruiting office and interned with agent Drew Rosenhaus.
Weinstein helped connect Rashada with AIR app founder James Sackville, a 24-year-old Australian who founded his company last year after finishing his career as a punter at SMU.
Sackville said AIR is a platform designed to help college coaches, high school athletes and their advisers simplify the process and find good matches. After using current college athletes as a marketing tool in the past several months, Sackville said he intends to dedicate a significant portion of AIR's marketing budget toward working with other college and high school athletes as spokespeople in the coming year.
"There's no better person to talk about recruiting than someone who has recently gone through the process or is currently going through the process," Sackville said. "It's been a resounding success so far, and after talking with Jaden it was a literal no-brainer to work with him."
Rashada said he has worked with Weinstein to make sure anything he ends up endorsing will be a good fit for who he is and won't get in the way of keeping his focus on football and school. He is also partnering with Safeway grocery stores this winter to provide food gift cards for the homeless population near his hometown in Northern California.
He said that some people around him were skeptical about a high school junior taking a step toward professionalism at his age but that he sees it as a learning opportunity. Rashada said he's interested in getting into the sports agency business in the future.
Rashada said exploring NIL deals hasn't changed his attitude toward football and his future career.
"I was already handling it like a business in recruiting when I'm talking to coaches," he said. "They're offering me $200,000 in education, so it didn't feel much different. It was just a few more things to learn."