Living in a city full of stars, it’s understandable that a USC football player can forget his head coach rates somewhere on the celebrity scale.
“Lincoln Riley, actually forgetting he’s such a famous coach so when I see him acting goofy or making jokes, it’s just kind of funny to me,” USC wide receiver Brenden Rice recently told On3, laughing.
Riley isn’t alone.
The Trojans, who listed 19 transfers in their Week 1 two-deep, feature two of the seven most marketable high school and college football and men’s basketball athletes, according to the On3 NIL 100. Quarterback Caleb Williams and wide receiver Jordan Addison, who transferred from Oklahoma and Pittsburgh, respectively, rank fifth and seventh.
Each has signed an NIL deal with at least one major brand. Williams signed a deal with Beats by Dre and he has since gifted headphones to all of his teammates, plus coaches and custodians, as well as USC’s men’s and women’s basketball teams last season.
Addison signed a deal with United Airlines.
To gain more insight into L.A.’s most famous college team, which has some of the most famous figures in the sport, On3 asked Rice about the program’s offseason and its players’ approach to NIL.
“NIL is a great opportunity,” Rice said. “It’s a big blessing upon us. But the thing is though, we all come to practice, we all go to games. We’re focused on football and football comes first. Football and school come first. NIL and money and stuff like that will come after. Plus, NIL is so short-term, you have to focus on the big idea of the future, which is getting to the NFL.”
On BLVD: ‘I think they’re number one’
Unsubstantiated rumors spread in the offseason in the usual places — on Twitter and message boards — about the intersection of NIL and the Transfer Portal. The alleged compensation in purported NIL offers seemed to increase each time they were told, like a 20-year-old fishing story.
So, On3 asked Rice what is the biggest misconception or faulty rumor or “report” about NIL. Is there anything he’d like to clear up for the record?
“Yeah, yeah,” Rice said, laughing. “There’s nothing I would really like to clear up. The guys that are here want to be here. They have their eyes set on one particular thing. We’re all focused. We’re all bought in to each other and bought in to the coaches and bought in to the program.
“So let the outside noise be that and let’s try to limit it and go on about our business.”
In June, USC announced it reached an agreement with the media agency Stay Doubted, which established a subsidiary called BLVD. Stay Doubted CEO Michael Jones described the group on Twitter as a “collective+” and it has quickly emerged as one of the most ambitious NIL collectives in the country.
“BLVD is amazing,” Rice said. “It’s an amazing group of people… I’m truly thankful for them and grateful for them.”
How does BLVD stack up to other NIL collectives that Rice may have heard about?
“BLVD resides with USC so I think they’re number one always,” he said. “That is a no-brainer.”
A championship would bring NIL opportunities
Ironically, despite some doom-and-gloom arguments prior to the start of the NCAA’s NIL era, there are examples of NIL deals that have brought teammates together rather than driven them apart.
Rice said that was the case at USC.
“Caleb [Williams] is a very humble person,” Rice said. “We’re all thankful for him. He’s a great leader and a better teammate. Just the fact that with the whole Beats situation, it was amazing just to see, ‘OK, you have a guy coming in here from a totally different school. He just got paid [through] a big deal for Beats.’
“And then trying to figure him out, trying to learn more about him and you see him and you see how he carries himself and for him to give back to our own teammates.”
Rice, who recently signed an NIL deal with the financial app MoneyLion, said he hopes he can repay the favor through an NIL deal of his own someday.
When asked how good USC can be this season if the Trojans’ remade roster and coaching staff gels quickly, Rice said they can be as good as they want to be.
One quote best summarized how Rice described how USC’s star-studded roster is approaching the second year of the NIL era.
“You have to remember that we’re aiming for that gold ball,” Rice said. “If we get to the gold ball, I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a lot of NIL opportunities and stuff like that, but we want to go get that championship first.”