Aztecs Student-Athletes Cashing in on N.I.L. Deals in San Diego

NCAA rule change is allowing long overdue payments for collegiate athletes' Name, Image and Likeness

On July 1, with a strong nudge from the Supreme Court, the NCAA changed one of its most stringent, and longstanding, rules. Student-athletes are now able to be compensated for their Names, Images and Likenesses.

In a nutshell, collegiate athletes can now benefit financially from their notoriety instead of being limited to a scholarship. The decision wasn’t expected until 2023, so the sudden change has created a bit of a stir.

“It’s the Wild West. It’s somewhat wide open so we want to take advantage of that,” says Tom Matthews, an attorney who has a pretty good client to work with.

His son, Jesse Matthews, is one of the most acrobatic wide receivers in the nation. A Christian High grad, Jesse is one of the first Aztecs to sign an NIL deal, with Lakeside Equipment Rental. The junior wideout will be attending events and providing social media content promoting the company, and also be able to sell autographs.

Jesse is a unique case because he didn’t receive a single Division-1 scholarship offer. He walked on at SDSU, earned a roster spot, and as soon as he got some playing time they couldn’t keep him off the field. Just last month, Matthews was named to the Pro Football Focus Preseason All-MWC Team.

That hard work is what attracted his first N.I.L. deal.

“Jesse was told in high school that he’d never play D-1 football,” says Robert Davila, owner of Lakeside Equipment Rental and a longtime supporter of Christian High School athletics. “For a kid to train as hard as he did, walk on at San Diego State, and now become one of their top receivers, it’s just a great story. For me to be part of something like that and say I sponsor a guy who stands for what he stands for, his work ethic alone … how do you say no to that?”

It’s an opportunity the junior wideout wasn’t sure he’d ever have.

“It’s nice. It’s been coming for a while,” says Jesse. “I think there’s no fair reason that student-athletes couldn’t make money off their own name. It’s nice to be able to profit off that and not have to worry about breaking any NCAA rules.”

As of right now, the NCAA is leaving it up to the schools and the student-athletes to follow rules set up each state while it works on a national policy, so things are going to be in flux for a while.

In the interim the Matthews family is making sure to error on the side of caution as they navigate these exciting new waters.

“It’s been a learning curve,” says Tom. “We don’t want to rush into anything too quickly. We want to make sure we do everything right. The last thing we want to do is put Jesse’s eligibility in jeopardy, but I think we’re good.”

Jesse is also having to make some new decisions, like what kinds of products he wants to put his name behind.

“I’m trying to be really careful about what kinds of deals I make,” says Jesse. “I’m being really cautious and not rushing into things. So, it’s a weird middle ground right now but I think, as we go on, we’ll get used to it.”

They have a few other things in the works and are setting up a website to make Jesse as marketable as possible.

“We’re in the process of building a platform, looking at digital marketing. We want to do this right and we want it to be effective,” says Tom. “As his parents we couldn’t be prouder of him but now he’s put us to work. So, here we go.”

Off into the Wild West, and it should be an awfully fun ride.

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