Back in 1985, Gatorade established an award honoring the nation's top high school student-athletes. Since then, the Gatorade Player of the Year award has recognized more than 12,500 state and national winners in 12 sports.
Gatorade Player of the Year alumni include household names like Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, Candace Parker, Kerri Walsh and Abby Wambach -- a distinguished group, indeed.
This week, we're catching up with Jameis Winston.
Jameis Winston has one of the top nicknames in college football. But “Famous Jameis” [they rhyme], better known as “Jaboo” to his friends back in Hueytown, Ala., is more than a great name. He’s a great quarterback getting ready to play in the biggest game of his nascent college career.
Winston and unbeaten Florida State head to Death Valley on Saturday night to play unbeaten Clemson in a battle of Top 5 teams for a game that might come down to this question: Can the Tigers slow down Jameis Winston?
Five teams have tried to corral the 2012 Gatorade Alabama Football Player of the Year in his redshirt freshman season and all five have failed. Miserably. Winston exploded onto the scene in the Seminoles’ season opener, completing 25-of-27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-13 rout of Pitt.
And the 6-foot-4, 228-pound Winston -- an Alabama Baseball POY candidate who also pitches for Florida State’s baseball team -- hasn’t slowed down. In the Noles’ most recent game, Winston passed for 393 yards and five TDs in a 63-0 rout of previously unbeaten Maryland. For the season, Winston has completed 73.2 percent of his passes (90-for-123) for 17 touchdowns, just two interceptions and a quarterback efficiency rating (213.9) that ranks No. 2 in the country.
Then again, high school teams didn’t have much success against Winston, either. As a Hueytown senior, he completed 163-of-234 attempts (70.0%) for 2,424 yards and 28 touchdowns against just two interceptions, leading the Golden Gophers (13-1) to the Class 5A state semifinals. The co-MVP of the 2012 ESPNHS Elite 11 Quarterback Camp also rushed for 1,063 yards and 15 touchdowns on 144 carries.
Winston is one of six Gatorade State Football Players of the Year who will start at quarterback for a Top 25 team this Saturday. In another game featuring two highly ranked teams, Brett Hundley (2010, Arizona) leads No. 9 UCLA on the road against Kevin Hogan (2011, Washington, D.C.) and No. 13 Stanford. Both Pac-12 schools are chasing an Oregon team that hasn’t skipped a beat since coach Chip Kelly left for the NFL, thanks in part to Heisman Trophy front-runner Marcus Mariota (2011, Hawaii. Meanwhile, Blake Bell (2009, 2010, Kansas) returns to his home state as No. 18 Oklahoma visits Kansas in an attempt to bounce back from Saturday’s loss to rival Texas.
And that brings us back to another redshirt freshman who hasn’t had the opportunity to rival Winston’s impact. Until now. Maty Mauk (2011, 2012, Ohio) takes the reins for No. 14 Missouri after an injury to starting QB James Franklin. And Mauk, who has thrown just six passes this season, is getting tossed into the deep end of the pool when the Tigers play host to No. 22 Florida.
If Mauk pulls out a win to keep Mizzou undefeated, chances are someone will come up with a deserving nickname for him, too.