• 17-DEC-2019


Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan Surprises Winner with Honor
Marietta, Ga. [December 17, 2019] – In its 35th year of honoring the nation’s most elite high school athletes, The Gatorade Company today announced Arik Gilbert of Marietta High School in Marietta, Ga. is the 2019-20 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year. Gilbert won the prestigious award for his accomplishments on and off the field, joining an impressive group of former Gatorade National Football Player of the Year winners who combined for six NFL MVP awards, 30 Pro Bowl appearances and six NFL first round draft picks.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan surprised Gilbert with the award in front of family, friends, teammates and coaches at his school.
“There is no greater honor in high school sports than the Gatorade National Player of the Year award and it’s been fun celebrating Arik Gilbert’s incredible accomplishment,” said Matt Ryan. “Arik Gilbert has just begun his career and is already being recognized as one of the best athletes in the nation and an all-star member of his community.”
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Gilbert as the nation’s best high school football player. A national advisory panel comprised of sport-specific experts and sports journalists helped select Gilbert from more than a million high school football players nationwide.
Competition for the national award is fierce. Gilbert topped the list of 51 state winners in football who have an incredible list of accomplishments, including 9 All-American Bowl Game participants, 27 All-State players, 7 SEC school committees and nearly all volunteering with at least two organizations.
Gilbert is now a finalist for the most prestigious award in high school sports, the Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award, which is announced at a special ceremony prior to The ESPY Awards in July.
“Gilbert is probably the most complete prep tight end I’ve scouted," says Director of Sports Illustrated All-American John Garcia, Jr. "His physical profile alone would warrant offers, but it’s his polish that makes him a can’t-miss prospect. He’s already a great route runner with very good ball skills, which pairs almost unfairly with his athletic ability. He’s big, fast, physical, and competitive on top of it. He’s probably the most dominant offensive weapon in the country, and he’s doing it against elite competition in the Atlanta area, where he led his team to its first state title since 1967.”
The 6-foot-5, 255-pound senior tight end led the Blue Devils to a 13-2 record and the Class 7A State Championship. Gilbert caught 102 passes for 1,735 yards and 14 touchdowns through 15 games. A two-time All-State honoree, he was also named Region 3 Offensive Player of the Year as a junior and has been selected to play in the 2020 All-American Bowl. Gilbert is ranked as the nation’s No. 1 tight end prospect in the Class of 2020 by ESPN and Rivals, and No. 11 in the country regardless of position by Rivals.     
The founder of a campus-wide initiative called “Whisper,” which urges students to have device-free conversations and supports diversity and inclusion efforts, Gilbert has also volunteered on behalf of the East Atlanta Kids Club, Habitat for Humanity and March of Dimes. A parishioner at the Life Revolution Church, Gilbert has also donated more than 50 hours to Marietta elementary schools and the Marietta Youth Football program. “Arik Gilbert is one of the best players I’ve ever coached against,” said John Reid, head coach at Rome High School. “He’s huge, fast and has great hands. He’s the best player on the field at any position he lines up.”    
Gilbert has maintained a 3.14 GPA in the classroom. He has verbally committed to play football on scholarship at Louisiana State University next fall.
Through Gatorade’s cause marketing platform “Play it Forward,” Gilbert has the opportunity to award a $1,000 grant to a local or national youth sports organization of his choosing. He is also eligible to submit an essay to win one of twelve $10,000 spotlight grants for the organization of choice, which will be announced throughout the year. 
Each year a selection committee evaluates the nation’s top talent in the District of Columbia and all 50 states, choosing national winners in 12 different sports: football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball, boys and girls soccer, and boys and girls track and field. From the 12 national winners, one male and one female athlete are each named Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year.
Since the program’s inception in 1985, Gatorade Player of the Year award recipients have won hundreds of professional and college championships, and many have also turned into pillars in their communities, becoming coaches, business owners and educators. Previous winners include a distinguished list of athletes, such as Peyton Manning, Abby Wambach, Karl-Anthony Towns, Derek Jeter and many other sports icons. To learn more about the Gatorade Player of the Year program, check out past winners or to nominate student-athletes, visit www.Gatorade.com/POY, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GatoradePOY or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Gatorade.
Jake Smith
Scottsdale, AZ
University of Texas
JT Daniels
Santa Ana, CA
University of Southern California
Tate Martell
Las Vegas, NV
University of Miami
Jacob Eason
Lake Stevens, WA
University of Washington
Kyler Murray
Allen, TX
Arizona Cardinals
Andrew Brown
Chesapeake, VA
Cincinnati Bengals
Max Browne
Sammamish, WA
Played for Pittsburgh Panthers
Johnathan Gray
Aledo, TX
Played for University of Texas, Austin
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Rock Hill, SC
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Malcolm Jones
Westlake Village, CA
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Garrett Gilbert
Austin, TX
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Matt Barkley
Santa Ana, CA
Buffalo Bills
John Brantley
Ocala, FL
Retired from Baltimore Ravens
Mitch Mustain
Springdale, AR
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Greg Paulus
Syracuse, NY
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Jeff Byers
Loveland, CO
Retired from Carolina Panthers
Kyle Wright
Danville, CA
Retired from San Francisco 49ers
Lorenzo Booker
Ventura, CA
Retired from Chicago Bears
Joe Mauer
St. Paul, MN
Retired from Minnesota Twins
Brock Berlin
Shreveport, LA
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Chris Lewis
Long Beach, CA
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Ronald Curry
Hampton, VA
Retired from St. Louis Rams
Travis Minor
Baton Rouge, LA
Retired from St. Louis Rams
Tim Couch
Hyden, KY
Retired from Cleveland Browns
Brock Huard
Puyallup, WA
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Peyton Manning
New Orleans, LA
Retired from Denver Broncos
Ron Powlus
Berwick, PA
Retired from Philadelphia Eagles
Chris Walsh
St. Paul, MN
Retired from Minnesota Vikings
Marquette Smith
Lake Howell, FL
Retired from Carolina Panthers
Robert Smith
Euclid, OH
Retired from Minnesota Vikings
Terry Kirby
Tabb, VA
Retired from Oakland Raiders
Curtis Bray
Monroeville, PA
Emmitt Smith
Pensacola, FL
Retired from Arizona Cardinals
Jeff George
Indianapolis, IN
Retired from Oakland Raiders