Jaden Rashada thought he was going to play quarterback at Florida and thought an entity called the Gator Collective would pay him up to $13.8 million to do it.
It sounded almost too good to be true, which is because it actually was too good to be true.
Rashada, a four-star recruit in the class of 2023 out of Pittsburgh, California, wound up the victim of a dubious crew that couldn’t deliver the promised money.
His commitment to Florida collapsed because of it and soon Rashada was part-laughing stock, part-cautionary tale, part-political pawn in the debate over name, image and likeness (NIL) that extended all the way to the United States Congress.
Meanwhile, Rashada stayed quiet, signed with Arizona State, enrolled early and, according to the coaches in Tempe, put his head down and went to work.
On Tuesday, word broke via Arizona Sports that he would be the Sun Devils' Week 1, true-freshman starter against Southern Utah on Aug. 31.
That is one quick redemption story.
“[Do Rashada’s] positives and explosives … outweigh the moments you’re going to have as a young quarterback?” ASU head coach Kenny Dillingham said last week when discussing the debate about his prized freshman in the team’s starting quarterback battle.
There was no denying Rashada’s talent. He was ranked as high as 44th by some national recruiting services and sat on offers from Miami, Texas A&M, LSU and others. Dillingham has spent months raving about his big-play potential and fast-track learning curve.
Yet ASU had plenty of experience available in older transfers Drew Pyne (Boston College, Notre Dame) and Jacob Conover (BYU), plus returning QB Trenton Bourguet.
“Can [we] as a staff control those young moments enough to where we can showcase his talents, which is you saw him throwing the ball 50, 60 yards down the field?” Dillingham said.
Clearly Dillingham believes they can and made Rashada not just the future of the program, but the present. No matter where you stand on NIL and college athletics, this is a feel-good development because Rashada and his family were victims of falling for fraudulent promises and nothing else.
The Gator Collective positioned itself as an entity to aid UF recruiting and presented Rashada with an eye-popping contract worth nearly $14 million over four years.
By comparison, quarterback Will Levis, the 33rd pick in the 2023 NFL Draft after a star career at Kentucky, signed a four-year deal with the Tennessee Titans worth just $9.54 million.
According to the Gator Collective/Rashada contract, first obtained by the Athletic, Rashada was supposed to receive $500,000 up front and $250,000 a month as a freshman, $291,666.66 as a sophomore, $375,000 as a junior and $195,833.33 as a senior.
All he had to do was reside in Gainesville, Florida, and sign a few autographs, make a few appearances and send out a few social media posts.
That kind of money and you get to play in the SEC for a national title-winning program? That kind of money when you’ve never even proven yourself as a college player?
Who wouldn’t at least consider it, if not take it? That is a life-changing amount.
It turned out the Gator Collective was all talk, no cash. When the initial payment fell through in early December of 2022, the Rashadas began getting nervous. By early January, they bailed out altogether. As news of the broken deal erupted around him, Rashada quietly signed with ASU, in part because Dillingham had recruited him previously.
This is part of NIL — if not business in general. Deals fall apart. Promises get broken. Someone seemingly trustworthy turns out to be less so. It happens all the time in every business.
Because this was college football, though, there were endless wails about the "wild, wild west" and immediate calls for the federal government to step in and regulate something that might be impossible to regulate. Rashada was pointed to as someone the feds needed to protect.
To his credit, he has never publicly, or according to ASU, privately, played himself as a helpless victim. Instead, Dillingham said Rashada constantly hung around the football office looking to learn more about the position and the playbook, made huge strides in decision making and grinded in the weight room.
What happened, happened. The past had no bearing on the young man’s future. In truth, it wasn’t that bad. The $13.8 million was a fantasy number anyway, so he didn’t lose anything. Playing at Arizona State rather than Florida is a wash in the grand scheme of things. It may turn out to be even better.
If NIL is about the free market coming for college football, then Rashada was in that market as well. Under old NCAA rules, he would have been punished for agreeing to a deal about potential payments.
In the new era, he just went and found a new school to attend and a new opportunity to attack.
“He’s super talented and super hard-working,” Dillingham said last offseason.
Now he’s an immediate starter in the Pac-12, where the nation’s best collection of quarterbacks reside.
Despite the scam artists and screamers around him, it seems Jaden Rashada has turned out just fine so far.