Shock came, followed by silence.
Gavin Wimsatt and Owensboro High had just won a savage shootout against rival Daviess County. And now the announced quarterback was telling his teammates that the 49-42 triumph was the last time he played with them.
The rumors had been circulating in his western Kentucky town for a few weeks, but had gained momentum around kick-off Friday night. Wimsatt, a four-star rookie committed to Rutgers, would drop out of high school early and enroll immediately to capitalize on the name, image and likeness opportunities.
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When a hazy Wimsatt broke the news to the team, silence fell over the group, and then a teammate stood up and kissed them. Many more followed, someone familiar with the program told NJ Advance Media. There were a lot of tears, the person said, but no animosity.
“You have to take the money,” they said.
Wimsatt has been taking additional crash courses in recent weeks to get the credits needed to graduate a few months earlier than expected – he had originally planned to enroll at Rutgers in January. He finished his job this week in order to get into Rutgers before a midweek deadline for schedule changes. Wimsatt is already listed as a student in the college directory and is expected to be on his way to New Jersey by Sunday.
The specifics of anticipated NIL opportunities remain unclear. But a report said Wimsatt could sign a six-figure deal. If he receives such a rich deal, it could be a watershed event as college football grapples with the nascent NIL era.
Ohio State quarterback Quinn Ewers spent his final year at Texas powerhouse Southlake Carroll to join the Buckeyes in August to cash in on NIL deals worth more than $ 1 million, including including equity in a start-up business. But Ewers was a five-star prospect from the Dallas area who would go on to join one of the most famous programs in history. The state of Ohio dominates its media market, competes for championships every year, and has a rabid and passionate fan base and national audience.
Wimsatt, on the other hand, is a lesser-known player heading for a program that hasn’t won out since 2014 and struggled a lot before Greg Schiano’s return. Rutgers is eclipsed by a slew of professional teams in the nation’s top-ranked media market. If Ewers is the trailblazer and Wimsatt is now proof of a trend, it might become common for top rookies to drop out of high school before their senior seasons to make money – something no one expected. when the NIL rule changes first occurred.
The impact on Rutgers’ season – which started against Temple on Saturday at SHI Stadium in Piscataway – remains to be seen. Wimsatt can play up to four games this season and still in a red shirt, and Schiano will be in a hurry on Wimsatt’s status and more at his post-game press conference and probably every week until he play.
But while Wimsatt’s unexpected arrival could rekindle the dormant flames of quarterback controversy at the Hale Center, it brings a lot of bright spots for the Scarlet Knights.
Wimsatt always appeared to be 100% committed to Rutgers. His family planned to follow him and move to New Jersey by next spring. But strange things are happening in recruiting. The Scarlet Knights no longer have to worry about one heartache in a million. There will be no last second flip. Wimsatt will be on campus in a few days and ready to start working with offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach Sean Gleeson, whose relationship with Wimsatt was key to earning his commitment.
“As soon as I met [Gleeson] and I spoke to him at length, I knew immediately what Gavin had seen, ”Owensboro offensive coordinator Jeff Reese told NJ Advance Media in April when Wimsatt signed up with Rutgers. “There was a level of comfort. He’s smart, personable, engaging – he just has all of those things that make you trust him and want to be coached by him.
Expected or not, the future of Rutgers football is about to come.
“You can’t go there being gentle,” said Chris Walker, a family friend who has known Wimsatt since birth, during NJ Advance Media’s recent visit to Owensboro. “But I think he’s going to be fine.”
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James Kratch can be contacted at [email protected].