The never-ending recruitment of a hotshot quarterback

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Sixteen months ago, few would-be college athletes had as many choices as Quinn Ewers. With supreme athletic gifts and a bleached blonde mullet, Ewers was the top high school quarterback in the country by a resounding consensus. The suburban Dallas-Forth Worth star drew scholarship offers from 31 schools and, in August 2020, chose to attend Texas.

But Ewers had not finished choosing. Two months later, he disengaged from Texas and reopened recruiting, this time choosing to attend Ohio State from 2022. Then last summer, just after new rules allowing varsity athletes to earn money from endorsements were started, he gave up his senior year at Southlake Carroll. The high school will enroll in Ohio State early for the 2021 season, moving from class to class.

Ewers immediately attracted an enviable array of sponsorship deals that some reports estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. What he didn’t attract, however, was playing time. He’s only taken two shots for the Buckeyes this season in a team rich in quarterbacks.

So last week Ewers decided it was time to choose again. He entered the NCAA transfer portal, intending to find a new varsity team in his home country. For the third time in less than a year and a half, it was time to decide where to play college football.

Ewers is taking advantage of this period of flux in varsity sport. New rules make it easy for players to switch between programs while earning money from their name, image and likeness. He is either a pioneer or an outcast. It wasn’t just the coaches that Ewers left behind, it was also sponsors like Ricart Automotive in Columbus who gave Ewers a loaded van.

He is not the only one to change. The transfer portal is full of players, especially quarterbacks, looking to relocate. And it’s not just bench warmers.

Adrian Martinez of Nebraska, Dillon Gabriel of Central Florida and Michael Penix Jr. of Indiana entered the transfer portal in December after starting at their respective schools for several seasons. They are joined by Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, who started the season as a Heisman favorite before being ignored by a freshman, and LSU’s top two quarterbacks Myles Brennan and Max Johnson.

And then there’s Ewers, who was the second high school quarterback in history. to get a perfect score by several football recruiting services. Ewers had originally planned to play his high school season and join Ohio State early in January 2022. When the NCAA changed its rules to allow athletes to sign endorsements for using their likeness, his calculation changed. .

At Southlake Carroll High School in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb, Ewers was recruited so heavily that he drew 31 scholarship offers.


Photo:

Smiley N. Pool / Associated press

Ewers had undeniable market value with over 82,000 Instagram followers in August – more than all but one of the 2021 Heisman Trophy finalists. But the University Interscholastic League, the governing body of high school athletics in Texas, did not follow the NCAA’s lead and rejected the Ewers’ petition to make an exception to their ban on high school students signing endorsements. In mid-August, Ewers made an astonishing decision and reclassified his recruiting class in 2021 so he could register early with the Buckeyes.

“It’s not a financial decision; this is what is best for my football career, ”Ewers wrote in a statement on Twitter at the time.

Ewers’ first training session with Ohio State took place midway through the team’s preseason camp, an odd time to join the team. He was joining a roster that was not lacking in talent as a quarterback. Sophomore CJ Stroud backed Justin Fields in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft and won the starting position last spring. Right behind him on both depths were red-shirted rookie Jack Miller III and rookie Kyle McCord, a five-star rookie.

Ewers has watched all but two of Ohio State’s games of the season.


Photo:

Adam Cairns / Columbus Dispatch / Reuters

Shortly after he started taking practice shots as the Buckeyes’ fourth-string quarterback, Ewers got himself two agents; sponsorship with a national Kombucha brand; an agreement with a sports memorabilia company; and a customized 2020 Ford F250 Super Duty pickup truck from a local car dealership, Ricart Automotive.

The partnership with Ewers was a no-brainer, said Rick Ricart, dealership president, because of the quarterback’s pedigree, magnetic personality and “sleek haircut”.

“I wanted to have the opportunity to work with him while he’s a student-athlete here at Ohio State. We therefore entered into a three-year agreement which stipulated that we would have automotive exclusivity in the dealer market, ”said Ricart. As part of the deal, the dealership also paid Ewers to film commercials, one of which aired locally during the Ohio State-Michigan game.

Ricart understood the changing dynamics of college football and was careful to include a contingency that would void the truck’s lease if Ewers moved.

It’s unclear if the quarterback’s other deals include similar language. GT Sports Marketing, a distributor of collectible cards and autographed memorabilia, has signed a three-year contract with Ewers. He did not respond to requests for comment. According to ESPN, Holy Kombucha, a Dallas-based beverage company that allegedly gave Ewers money and equity to endorse their probiotic drinks, did not respond to the request for comment.

None of the mentions depended on Ewers’ performance on the pitch, which was probably a good thing. Ewers only saw the field for two games – both transfers – when the Buckeyes were up 49 points against Michigan State.

Buckeyes coach Ryan Day felt Ewers’ development was less time sensitive than the development of the other passer on his roster, who are all older. Day turned out to be wrong: Ewers entered the transfer portal on December 3 and announced his intention to play college ball somewhere in the state of Texas.

“I prefer not to go into too much detail, but it caught me a bit off guard,” Day said over the weekend. “He was in a very unique situation, for sure.”

By transferring, Ewers is virtually making sure he plays elsewhere sooner than he would at Ohio State. As Buckeye, he likely would have spent another year behind Heisman Trophy finalist Stroud, and then should have beaten McCord for the starting role in 2023. (Miller entered the transfer portal this month.)

Assuming he enrolls in his new school in January with enough time to learn the ropes, Ewers is talented enough to take first-team shots in September 2022 – the same year his college career would have started. if he had not looked for sponsorships. This is the new reality of college football.

“When you look at the number of people going into the portal and going to other schools, it matters,” Day said. “There are a lot of dynamics involved – list management, recruiting, portal – as we go along, we’re just trying to navigate what that looks like on an annual basis. “

Team change has become so pervasive that even coaches who once strongly opposed adding transfers, like Alabama’s Nick Saban, have returned.

“Whether you agree or disagree with that, you have to see it as a source of bringing talented players to your squad,” Saban said on Saturday after his side shredded former No.1 Georgia 42- 21 in the Southeastern Conference Championship. . Two of the three Crimson Tide touchdowns were caught by Jameson Williams, a wide receiver who transferred from Ohio State last spring.

Coaches are not the only ones in a hurry by this era of quasi-free agency.

“This exact advertisement [with Quinn] we’re probably going to consider reissuing… and not continuing to air it in Columbus, ”said Ricart, the car dealership. In the meantime, he had an idea on how to use the now obsolete footage the dealership shot with Ewers in his van.

“We could create a little parody or parody ad, like a breakup video,” Ricart said. “A ‘We already miss you, Quinn’ montage.”

Write to Laine Higgins at [email protected]

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