When Malachi Nelson signed last November, the 2023 five-star quarterback from Los Alamitos said he had not had a single conversation with USC about their approach to name, image and likeness.
“I know there are a lot of schools out there where that’s the first thing they talk about,” Nelson recently told The Times. “‘We’re going to give you so much, we’re going to do whatever, just to get you here.'”
But that wasn’t part of Lincoln Riley’s pitch to convince the nation’s No. 2 recruit to follow him from Oklahoma, where Nelson had been committed since last summer. Like USC, Nelson preferred a cautious approach when it came to redeeming NIL.
“They’re taking it easy,” Nelson said. “They are doing it right, so they are protecting themselves and us. I can only agree with this approach.”
Now that USC is making its next move with NIL, so is its top recruit for 2023.
Nelson recently closed his first announced NIL deal with The h.wood Group, a major hotel and restaurant company with 13 restaurants and nightclubs in the Los Angeles area, including SLAB, a popular grill and smoked meat spot that Nelson said is one of his Family belongs to favorites.
For Nelson, this connection was a crucial part of his first NIL partnership.
“A lot of people just see money and take it,” Nelson said. “That’s not where my head is. I want to do business that is consistent with my beliefs and what I think and like. Doing things not just for the money, but something I can really connect with and be honest about.”
The exact terms of Nelson’s deal were not disclosed. However, as part of this partnership, Nelson is expected to promote the group’s restaurants on social media, partner in menu collaborations and host tailgate events with SLAB during the upcoming USC football season.
“It’s all about him making SLAB a part of his life,” said John Terzian, co-founder of the h.wood Group.
For Terzian, USC football has long been an important part of his own life. He was a walk-on quarterback at USC, sitting behind the likes of Carson Palmer and Matt Cassel. He left just as the Pete Carroll era was underway.
Now he thinks he’s a die-hard fan — one who’s suddenly taken a genuine interest in the future Trojans quarterback.
“I don’t think too many people do stuff like that,” Terzian said.
Many states still do not allow such a regulation for high school athletes. California is one of 10 that allow them to capitalize on their name, image and likeness. Last December, four-star passer Jaden Rashada of Pittsburgh High became the first well-known football player to cash in when he signed a four-figure deal with a football recruiting app.
As the state’s top prospect for 2023, Nelson has had no shortage of suitors looking for similar deals since last summer. Alongside h.wood Group, Nelson said his management team at Levels Sports Group is working on a deal with “a major gaming content company,” as well as other potential merch and trading card deals.
It’s quite a start for a portfolio for a quarterback who hasn’t started his senior year of high school.
He may not be on the USC campus yet, but Nelson said he plans to put his new partnership to good use and bring other recruits into the restaurants he now works with.
It’s the type of opportunity that sells to recruits interested in future NIL opportunities at USC, Nelson said.
“If I still went to Oklahoma, it wouldn’t be a thing,” he said. “Everything went perfectly.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/usc/story/2022-06-21/usc-trojans-football-commit-malachi-nelson-nil-deal-hwood-group USC football commit Malachi Nelson announces first NIL deal