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Tuesday Afternoon Notes from the On3 Elite Series

On3 imageby:Tyler Thompson05/28/24


The college sports landscape is changing so quickly that it’s impossible to keep up. Almost three years into the Name, Image, and Landscape (NIL) era, recruitments are accompanied by sometimes staggering dollar amounts as high school and college players and those around them broker deals for their future with a transparency that is jarring to even the most jaded fan.

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that underneath all the endorsements, commercials, and contracts, these kids are just kids, and need guidance more than ever. I was reminded of that at today’s On3 Elite Series, an invite-only two-day event. Forty-six of the top high school football players in the country and their families are in Nashville this week to learn how to safely and successfully navigate the NIL era, the transfer portal, the rest of their playing careers, and life after football. As Shannon Terry, founder and CEO of On3, put it in our team meeting the Media Day began, although these recruits have been playing football their whole lives, on average, they’ve only got 7.3 more years left in their playing careers once they start college. What they do with the next few is pivotal not just to what comes next but to what happens when they hang up the cleats.

Kentucky did not have any recruits in attendance — sadly, four-star linebacker Tavion Wallace, the little brother of former Cat Trevin Wallace, cut Kentucky from his list — but it was still interesting to see the players get the VIP treatment, gain valuable media experience, and talk to a who’s who of industry, legal, and financial experts and former and current players. While looking around the W Hotel pool deck, I considered how cool it would be in their shoes. Not only was the swag and setup very cool but they were surrounded by guiding hands to help them through an incredibly exciting yet daunting stage of life.

Okay, enough of the serious stuff. Let’s talk more about the scene. Upon arrival, the Four-, Five-, and Five-star Plus+ recruits were escorted upstairs to a red carpet of sorts, where they posed with the hat of the school they’ve committed to or the schools they’re choosing between. From there, they’d make the rounds between a media room, speaking to reporters from On3’s fan and team sites; various YouTube show sets (Andy Staples, JD PicKell, Josh Newberg); radio shows; and a measuring station where they’d have their hands, height, and wingspan recorded.

Since Kentucky didn’t have a recruit in attendance, I made Nick Roush get measured. I was too slow on the draw to capture his hand measurements, but he was very proud.

After all that “work,” recruits got to pick up their swag and relax by the pool, where their families were eating lunch and playing cornhole while a DJ spun tunes. Not too shabby on a picture-perfect day in Nashville.

The bulk of the event takes place tomorrow, a series of seminars for the players on how to approach NIL, college, the transfer portal, pros, and life afterward. The featured speakers are two athletes who have learned more about NIL in the last few years than almost anyone: the Cavinder Twins, two women’s basketball stars who are returning to college after a year away for a final year at Miami.

Haley and Hanna Cavinder have a social media following of over five million and have signed with brands like Boost Mobile, Raising Cane’s, Victoria’s Secret PINK, Champs Sports, and, most recently, Slate Milk. Who better to give the top high school football players in the country a heads-up about the overwhelming landscape ahead of them?

The most telling testament came from another On3 fansite writer, who told us in the staff meeting that prior to last year’s event, the first, college coaches told him they weren’t a big fan of the concept. Now, they love it because it gives kids a realistic approach to NIL and the foresight to set themselves up for what happens after their playing days are over. As we prepare for the NCAA vs. House settlement to shake up the landscape even further, that’s needed now more than ever.

I’m just scratching the surface of the On3 Elite Series. Updates from recruits are rolling out as we speak from Steve Wiltfong, Chad Simmons, and our other boots on the ground, so for more coverage, click here. Nick Roush will be by to share his thoughts in just a bit.

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