TEMPE, Ariz. – Jaden Rashada’s journey to becoming a Sun Devil can be described as anything but traditional.
It’s not everyday you see a multi-million dollar Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deal wither away in front of your face before you even step on an NCAA football field – and then proceed to get called horrific names online by trolls because of it.
The story of Rashada’s release from his National Letter of Intent to the University of Florida after his NIL deal went south is well-documented and over-played at this point in time. Even so, that doesn’t stop the former four-star recruit out of Pittsburg, California, from lighting up the practice facility with a smile.
Walking out for the 2023 Spring game that followed Pat’s Run at Sun Devil Stadium, Rashada was taking in the culture of his new home.
“I was blessed,” Rashada said. “I was just smiling and laughing in my own world. Man, it’s a blessing,” he added.
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Tempe, there are certainly things to count your blessings over. For Rashada, it could’ve been the fact that he’s been welcomed into a power-five program with open arms after all he’d been through.
“I always want to show the Tempe community well. It’s a blessing,” he said.
Or, it could’ve been that his new home is a place his father, Harlan, called home 30 years ago when he played defensive back for the Sun Devils from 1992-1994. Jaden even dawns the same digit his dad wore in maroon and gold, No. 5.
“There’s nothing like it. You know, my dad wore this number here, so It means a lot to me. I’m a pretty passionate person. Wearing this jersey means a lot to me, definitely,” Rashada said.
Freshman QB Jaden Rashada on what it meant to put the colors on for a real game situation. "My dad wore this number here so it means a lot to me. That's why I'm pretty passionate on the field." pic.twitter.com/8gTWmBuaXT— Ethan Tuttle (@KingTutSports) April 15, 2023
Now, his few drives in the spring game weren’t what he thought they’d would be, having a few freshman hiccups in his first action on the SDS turf.
“My individual performance today wasn’t (good). It wasn’t what I wanted,” Rashada said. “On the field if I mess up, even though it’s not a big deal, I think it’s a big deal. I care about this sport a lot,” he added.
The young dual-threat signal caller made some easy completions to try to get in a groove, checking down to his running back and handling screen passes well. When it was time to air it out, Rashada and his receivers struggled with timing, leading to a few sacks. There was one opportunity for a big play using his feet on a roll-out to his right with a good 30-yard buffer from the nearest defender, but Rashada elected for the long-bomb, which led to a Ro Torrence interception.
Despite the underwhelming performance, the game isn’t what this spring was about for Rashada.
“That (performance) doesn’t take away what I did over the last 15 practices, you know. I’m having fun and that’s what it’s about: growing as a person (and) growing as an athlete,” Rashada said. “You can’t let a couple of minutes ruin how much I developed this spring.”
What he was working on this spring as an early-enrollee was to adjust to the life of a college athlete, keep his head down, and work. He was asked where he sees himself on the depth chart with multiple players fighting for the same job. He didn’t bite.
“Wherever I get put, I get put,” he said. “I’ll play my role. I think everybody (makes) each other better,” he said.
In order to get better, there’s work to be done over the summer.
Rashada plans on staying in Tempe before the start of summer camp to keep building the foundation he’s set for himself.
“I’m going to be in this building every day just getting better,” he said. “There’s no need for me to go back home. I don’t have the resources (back home) that I have here. I’m going to stay here, try to get better, you know, get 30 days ahead of the others and see where that takes me.”
Everything from the mental to the physical is what Jaden wants to improve upon over the next few weeks. He wants to become “a better leader and a better person,” as he put it in order to gain the respect of his teammates that will eventually follow him into Sun Devil Stadium, whether that’s in 2023, 2024 or 2025.
His talent and physical makeup undeniably make Rashada an extremely valuable piece of the future here in Tempe under Dillingham. He’s got a rocket attached to his right arm, he’s big, he can move extremely well and he’s a top-end recruit in the program’s recent history.
But, it’s his mentality as a freshman that is, above all else, extremely impressive. The lights could be very bright in Rashada’s future if he keeps after it the way he did all spring long.