At one point during the melee, during the utter confusion, my mind wandered to the classic movie Trading Places.

There, on the crowded and chaotic New York Stock Exchange floor, were traders knee-deep in buy orders, desperately throwing cash at anything viable.

One flip of a 5-star. Then another, and another. Then more blue-chip swaps.

The first college football Early Signing Day with NIL in full force came and went Wednesday, and it was unlike anything we could envision.

It was, in a word, surreal.

“I’ve been (recruiting) for more than 20 years, and this is far and away the strangest day I’ve ever seen,” a Power 5 coach told me. “Money used to be the dirty little secret. Now it’s your calling card.”

There is no paper trail, but you better believe more money legally changed hands Wednesday than any other in the history of the sport. How do we know this?

Because of the high-value flips. And the high-value signing day announcements that were delayed and eventually secured. And yes, because of the announcements that didn’t happen.

Case in point: cornerback Cormani McClain, the No. 2 overall player in the 247Sports composite ranking, was committed to Miami and set to sign with the Canes. That is, until his mother — who has been running the show from Day 1 — announced on social media that there would be no decision today, thank you.

Please refresh for updates.

McClain is 1 of 7 composite 5-stars who hadn’t signed as of late Wednesday night. I’ll give you 3 guesses why they (and many other 4-stars) didn’t, and the first 2 don’t count — and the only answer I’ll accept starts with a “C” and rhymes with dash.

As in, a mad dash for cash.

And you know what? Good for the players.

Get all you can when you can, because in a year if it doesn’t work out, that money will go to someone else. Imagine how much patience deep pocket boosters will have when players don’t produce and the rate of return isn’t reached.

Get the cash, save the cash, and spend some of it. Don’t dare feel guilty about it, either.

Players have been on the short end of this goods for services deal for more than 150 years. The idea that an academic scholarship and professional development is fair trade for billions in media rights revenue is comical.

For the first time since NIL legislation was passed nearly 18 months ago, players truly understand their value. More than that, they know the one overarching rule of the game: There are no rules.

When Oregon lost 5-star quarterback Dante Moore on Monday to UCLA, the Ducks needed to fill a hole on their recruiting board. So they flipped 4-star quarterback Austin Novosad from Baylor — where Novosad had been committed for more than a year, and had turned down numerous overtures from teams trying to do the same.

Some have millions on reserve with Nike founder Phil Knight — that no doubt allowed Oregon to flip 5-star safety Peyton Bowen from Notre Dame — and some don’t. Others have the largest, most extensive NIL collective setup in college sports.

How else would Texas, which hasn’t been relevant since the Halcyon days of Mack Brown, land a top 3 recruiting class with the No. 1 overall player (Arch Manning) and 4 5-star recruits — including prized tailback Cedric Baxter Jr. of Orlando, that noted hotbed of Longhorns alumni (that’s sarcasm, everyone).

How else does Oregon flip Novosad and Bowen, and land 5-star end Matayo Uiagalelei over Ohio State and USC — a late run that moved the Ducks into the No.7 ranking?

From this day forward, if you’re an elite blue-chip prospect, the signing day routine is simple: Waltz into the money mosh pit open for business. Make it clear to the collectives of the schools you’re considering that you’re taking best and final offer, so ante up, everyone.

Just how wacky did it get this time around? Travis Hunter, the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2022 class who signed last year with Jackson State and has since entered the transfer portal, wanted in on the action, too.

So he tweeted during the early afternoon, “What fan base want an early Christmas present?”

Rest assured, he fielded calls from numerous schools. And if you don’t think cold, hard cash is leading the conversation, consider Hunter’s follow-up tweet.

“At 100k subscribers, I’m announcing my commitment.”

That would be 100,000 YouTube subscribers, where he can earn money as an influencer depending on the number of subscribers to his page.

Ultimately, late Wednesday night, Hunter gave Coach Prime and Colorado an early Christmas present by committing to the Buffaloes. He announced his decision on his YouTube channel.

Get used to it, everyone. Who says surreal can’t be exciting?

And profitable.