It was late June 2022, and the most-talked-about recruit at the prestigious, invitation-only Elite 11 Finals was not Malachi Nelson or Dante Moore, five-stars and the consensus top prospects in attendance. It was instead a four-star ranked below six others in his class.
Jaden Rashada arrived in Southern California for the quarterback showcase two days after committing to Miami during a televised announcement and two days after a report claimed Rashada secured a $9.5 million name, image and likeness (NIL) deal from a Miami booster. Rashada had recently shined with his play at a regional camp in Las Vegas, but it was the rumored megadeal that fueled the spotlight at the Elite 11 event.
With hundreds watching the passing drills from the stands at Redondo Union High School, Rashada struggled mightily; he repeatedly misfired on throws to receivers. Event organizers said Rashada appeared to be visibly stressed by the attention. A reporter covering the finals for The Athletic spotted him in tears.
“The kids openly talked about his money around him on the field, and Rashada is standing there,” said George Whitfield, a quarterback coach and former ESPN analyst who worked at the event. “They’re asking him, ‘How does it work? Do you get it all at once?’ And you can tell how uncomfortable he was.
“It was so awkward, and it only got worse. Balls were going in the dirt.”
Organizers sent playbooks and homework assignments to the campers ahead of the event. Elite 11 president Brian Stumpf said Rashada texted him apologizing he had not been able to dive into the material because “life’s been crazy.”
The “crazy” was just beginning.
Four months after his struggles at the Elite 11 finals, Rashada flipped his commitment from Miami to rival Florida and signed an NIL contract with the Gator Collective, a booster group that isn’t affiliated with Florida’s athletic department. The contract, which was obtained by The Athletic, would have paid him a staggering $13.85 million over four years, starting with a $500,000 payment on Dec. 5, in return for minimal NIL services such as posting on social media and autographing items.