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    Swanson: UCLA backup QB Chase Griffin is an NIL star with a bright future
    • October 12, 2023

    LOS ANGELES — I had to ask Chase Griffin if he had any advice.

    I’d just chatted with eighth-grade basketball prodigy Sydney Douglas and her family about the evolving frontier of college athletics: “All the stuff we would get in trouble for is now legal,” said Sydney’s mom, Maylana Martin, a UCLA women’s basketball great. “That’s the most pressure, to be honest, because … you make the majority of your money between now and when you graduate from college. And so that puts a lot of pressure on every move that we make right now.”

    Who better to ask for directions than Griffin, twice the NIL Male Athlete of the Year recipient at the NIL Summit?

    One of the Bruins’ backup quarterbacks, he has become a brand unto himself, an influential online ambassador-type for everything from Degree deodorant to Dunkin’ Donuts, from JPMorgan Chase to Postmates, and so many more companies that I could fill a column with their names if I wanted to.

    Instead, I’ll share what Griffin – who, you should know, is so much more than a football-playing pitchman – would tell a kid with the potential to build a lucrative NIL portfolio: “I would say, the same things that got you to the success are going to sustain you.”

    “Athletes, by nature, are built to create value,” said Griffin, who is a 23-year-old senior who is working toward his third degree. “We already have, it’s just finally that we’re slowly but surely getting more access to the value we create. And then content is important. Show as much or as little as you want, but understand that content is the most surefire way to work with brands.”

    Content, in Griffin’s case, mostly means DIY social posts that he writes, produces, stars in and scores (!), with help from an editor. They’re often shot in his college dorm room, and incorporate elements of his daily life, such as, say, a pair of posts featuring him watching an NFL Sunday on DirecTV – which earned him $2,400, as we saw on a recent Bloomberg video.

    His dad, Will Griffin – whose background is in banking, law and tech ethics – lends contractual oversight. But otherwise, this is Chase’s show, his education.

    He finds the time, he makes the deals, he delivers the content. He stacks wins.

    “I’ve gotten to a point where I consider myself one of the best producers in the branded content space,” Griffin said during a recent interview that he squeezed between practice and a Zoom call 40 minutes later. “And that’s not athlete-branded, just all branding content.”

    Are you wondering how a guy who has played in only seven games since arriving in Westwood in 2020 from Round Rock, Texas, has become an NIL darling, with more than 30 deals?

    Well, I could trace the route for you, as others have. Start with how he’d already been networking and trying to build his brand before the Supreme Court reversed the NCAA’s decades-long policy that limited what benefits student-athletes could receive in regard to their name, image and likeness.

    And then how, when NIL became a real thing, Griffin could boast he had the Pac-12’s highest passer rating (151.1) in his four games as a freshman, and how he’d started to build a “good followship” online. How, most importantly, he had “no blemishes” to his name.

    How his first deal, with Degree, led to opportunities with Shell and Champs Sports, and how those partnerships put him on ESPN, which netted him still more opportunities, which led to more coverage, which … you see the pattern.

    But I’d rather tell you more about why he’s been so successful in this realm.

    “He has first-rate intelligence and a first-class temperament,” Will Griffin said.

    His son, born at UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center, was mathing and reading and starting his ascent toward becoming a chamber orchestra violinist at 3, with help from his mom, Christine, who taught middle school at Harvard-Westlake when Chase was young.

    “He knows who he is and he’s not afraid to live his life in the public eye,” Will said. “I think he will wind up going into public service. I think it’ll be electoral politics because, more or less, that’s the path he’s on. I think he’ll see the impact he wants to have in the world and realize you do have to have your hands on the levers to make it happen.

    “That’s where the quarterback thing goes back to; it’s more fun to play than to be on the sideline.”

    Football has taught Chase that, and much else.

    In high school, he was the 5-foot-10 star QB who started for three seasons in a one-high school town, threw for more than 10,000 yards and did countless interviews. He also helped promote a county bond that funded the construction of an on-campus robotics lab and upgrades to the Hutto football stadium – including a “small-college equivalent” press box, said Thomas Jones, a sportswriter who covered Griffin for the Austin American-Statesman.

    “Hutto, 20 years ago, was part of a small farming town on the edge of Austin, but now it’s a booming suburb,” Jones said. “And when that bond passed, I think Chase could see Hutto growing. So not only did he put in the effort to help his high school in the moment, but he was thinking five, 10 years down the road.”

    At UCLA, Griffin wishes he’d had more opportunities to lead the Bruins to victories, but he’s been winning, anyway. He’s earned an undergraduate degree in public affairs and a master’s degree in education, and he’s now working toward a master’s in legal studies.

    A devoted Christian, he has launched the Chase Griffin Foundation, which is donating $11 – his jersey number – for every point the Bruins score throughout the 2023 season to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. So he didn’t play in Saturday’s 25-17 victory over Washington State, but he contributed: $275 to combat food insecurity. Think about that as you’re watching the No. 18 Bruins take on No. 15 Oregon State in Corvallis on Saturday.

    He’s served as a representative in the Bruin Athletic Council leadership group, as part of the Pac-12’s Student-Athlete Leadership Team that helped the Pac-12 navigate returning to play during COVID, and other such committees, including the one that helped select Martin Jarmond as UCLA’s athletic director. And he was an intern with an economic development think tank for former L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti that raised more than $40 million.

    Is it any wonder his teammates call him “President Chase”?

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    “There’s always those most-likely-to-succeed kids, people will say, ‘He could be president one day,’” Will Griffin said. “I don’t think he ever really loved the thought of actually running for office, but he would be damn good in office.”

    No, I didn’t get Chase to announce his candidacy. He didn’t, however, spike the idea of someday trying to stack political wins alongside all of his NIL victories.

    “I think eventually,” Chase said. “Whether it be in California, Texas or nationally, I definitely see it in the cards, being able to just affect people in a way where it makes life more peaceful and increases quality of life for them. So whether it’s through politics, on the philanthropic side, or in another way, that’ll be the route that I take.

    “And I have no qualms about which one it is – similar to being a quarterback. You go out there, you have an idea of who you’re gonna throw it to before the play. But you’ve got to go through the read. You gotta take what the defense gives you, and if you keep taking what the defense gives you, they’ll give you the game.”

    This Summer I will be producing/dropping new Visual NIL Ad Creative. Here is my personal top 10 (in no particular order).

    I am grateful to all of the brand partners who have entrusted me as a brand ambassador & creative director – including the ones featured in this thread.

    — Chase Griffin (@ChaseQB11) May 31, 2023

    ​ Orange County Register