Bryce Young has yet to make his first start as a college quarterback. He barely saw the field last season as a freshman for Alabama, even as the Crimson Tide regularly built huge leads en route to the College Football Playoff championship.
More than a few observers were nevertheless taken aback Tuesday by Alabama Coach Nick Saban’s revelation that Young is already looking at what Saban referred to as “ungodly” sums of money.
Saban noted that Young is in something of a special spot given the position he plays and where he plays it. However, the 69-year-old coach did sound a note of incredulity about how quickly Young has been able to cash in.
Speaking at the Texas High School Coaches Association’s annual convention (via 247 Sports), Saban said: “Our quarterback already has approached ungodly numbers. I’m not going to say what they are. He hasn’t even played yet. He hasn’t been a starter.”
“It’s almost seven figures,” Saban added. “And it’s like, the guy hasn’t even played yet. That’s because of our program.”
During his high school career in Southern California, Young earned numerous national honors and was considered a five-star recruit when he decommitted from USC to sign with Alabama. A day after the NCAA began allowing athletes to profit via NIL opportunities, he agreed to sign with heavyweight talent agency CAA. By that evening he was hawking a mobile payment service to his nearly 18,000 Twitter followers.
“I’m all fine with you all [getting] whatever you can get,” Saban, whose annual salary of $9.1 million makes him the highest-paid coach in college football (per USA Today), said Tuesday of his advice to his team. “The best thing you can do is hire some kind of representation.”
The seven-time national championship-winning coach, including six times with Alabama, said he tried to impress upon Tide players that being the best people and football players they could will provide the most long-term value to them.
“Your name is the most important thing you have to sell,” Saban said. “Make sure your brand is good by doing good things and creating value for yourself that some business wants to invest in your brand. It’s going to be a reflection on you.”
Another point Saban said he made to his team was to understand that the new NIL landscape inevitably involves an uneven playing field.
“Everything in high school and college football has always been equal for everyone. It’s not going to be that way anymore,” Saban said Tuesday. “Aaron Rodgers makes $24 million a year, and probably several million more in endorsements, because he’s the quarterback. The right guard probably makes a million a year, and he doesn’t get anything from endorsements. The same thing is going to happen to our team. Certain positions probably enhance opportunity to create value, like quarterback.”
Saban elaborated on that point in comments that could well have been aimed at Alabama players who have already made a difference on the field and might be unhappy to see a player rake in money before doing much of anything to help the team win.
“Don’t look over your shoulder and think, ‘Why is this guy getting this and I’m not getting this?’ Take responsibility, because that guy created value and you didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to do it,” Saban said. “But make sure you put everything in perspective. There’s still a lot of opportunity for you to create value for yourself in the NFL by being the best player you can be. Don’t take some $20,000 deal over here that would compromise your ability to be a first- or a second-round draft pick, where you can make millions relative to this small amount.”
Asked Tuesday at SEC media days in Hoover, Ala., for his thoughts on Saban’s assessment of Young’s NIL income, Mississippi Coach Lane Kiffin said, “That number just blew me away.”
“That’s amazing. He made a million dollars and hasn’t started a game yet? Wow, I don’t even know what to respond to that, but great for him,” added Kiffin, a former assistant under Saban at Alabama. “It is neat the players can make money now and profit off of their hard work, what basically everybody else in America gets to do.”
Speaking to reporters at the same event, Georgia Coach Kirby Smart said college football players “are getting an opportunity that has not been afforded to anyone before them.”
“You think back to the likes of a Hines Ward or a Champ Bailey at the University of Georgia, an A.J. Green, a Todd Gurley, what they would have been able to do with NIL,” said Smart, also a former Saban assistant. “These young men and women have earned this opportunity. We are so excited for them. The opportunities are really limitless.”
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