Last Updated on December 31, 2021
Eighteen-year-old junior quarterback Jaden Rashada of Pittsburg, California has signed what is being hailed as the first NIL deal for a high school football player. The four-figure deal will pay Rashada for promoting the Athletes in Recruitment (AIR) app on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.
Although many states laws and high school sports associations prohibit NIL for high school student athletes, or are at least murky on the situation, California is one of five states currently that clearly allows it.
The AIR app is a three-sided platform described as a cross between LinkedIn and a dating app for college recruiting. High school athletes can promote themselves to college coaches, compare themselves with their peers and swipe right on colleges that interest them.
On the flip side, coaches can sort, filter and swipe on athletes based on their recruiting needs. The third side of AIR is for parents, high school coaches or trainers, who can advocate for their athletes or act as an intermediary.
AIR’s founder, James Sackville, moved from Australia to the States in 2016 and became SMU’s starting punter. He launched AIR in late May and signed his first NIL deal a few months later with Jon Seaton, a walk-on offensive lineman at Elon who hadn’t yet played a game.
Sackville says his own experiences a as student athlete inspired AIR.
“As an international student, I saw firsthand how challenging the recruiting process was if you weren’t totally prepared for it. What I thought was just an international issue turned out to be even more prevalent domestically. That’s when the lightbulb went off for me that the system was broken and there needed to be a tool to fix it.”
Asked how AIR has helped him with his own recruiting process, Rashada said it’s helping him connect with coaches.
“The AIR app helps with getting coaches connected with players. If they like them as a player and their attributes, then they will reach out from there.”
“AIR was built to put the athlete first,” said Sackville. “That’s our mission. For too long, athletes haven’t had an exposure tool to get their name out there and know that it was actually going to be seen and heard. AIR transparently informs athletes about what sort of attention they’re getting from coaches or if they’re not.”
As for his own recruitment, Rashada says NIL isn’t a big factor in the process.
“It doesn’t factor with my recruiting at all, it’s just a blessing to be able to get this opportunity.”
He says he’s still navigating how NIL fits into his plans.
“I don’t really have a strategy. I will say though that I want to always give back to those who don’t have much.”
Rashada is a four-star prospect who is the No. 5 quarterback in the 2023 class according to 247Sports. Per 247Sports, he has received offers from Arizona State, Auburn, Oklahoma, Penn State, UCLA, Oregon and more.