Return of the POY: Tenn.'s I'Tavius Mathers

The 2011-12 Gatorade State Football Players of the Year selection process is underway, and what better way to kick off coverage than with profiles of returning underclassmen winners? Repeating is no guarantee, but here's a snapshot of what this year’s challengers can shoot for …

Name: I'Tavius Mathers

Position: Running back

Grade: Senior

School: Blackman (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)

College: Mississippi

Height: 6-foot

Weight: 190 pounds

Notes: 2010-11 Gatorade Tennessee Football Player of the Year ... Topped state in rushing yards as a junior ... Had 13 TD runs of longer than 50 yards in 2010 ... Finalist for Class AAA Tennessee Mr. Football ... Set school records for rushing yards in a game and season ... led the Blaze (11-2) to the state quarterfinals in 2010, where they lost to Smyrna, 20-14


Academics: B average

Extracurricular activities: Volunteered with cleanup crew to assist tornado victims ... raised funds to benefit Haitian disaster relief.

Louis Thompson, Lincoln County High head coach: "Mathers has speed and power, great acceleration, great moves. He made it look like we’d never worked on tackling … he’s the best back I’ve seen in the state in the last 10-12 years."

Each Gatorade State Player of the Year is challenged by thousands of fellow high school athletes. These are a few of the returning football underclassmen that also contended in 2010-11 …

Chad Voytik SR QB Cleveland; Will Gross SR QB Melrose; Brian Kimbrow SR RB East; Nathan Cole SR WR Mitchell; Dyshawn Mobley SR RB Powell; Dillon Woodruff JR QB Riverdale; Jaylen Walton SR RB Ridgeway; Jovon Robinson SR RB Wooddale; Drae Bowles SR WR Jackson Christian; Jamil Golden SR QB Ridgeway; Patton Robinette SR QB Maryville; C.J. Beathard SR QB Battle Ground

A dedicated POY team at ESPNHS manages the Gatorade Player of the Year program selection process and oversees all research, reporting, comparative analysis and criteria-compliance on the award program’s behalf. Candidates are judged upon athletic production and impact in the current season. Contenders must also demonstrate high academic achievement and exemplary personal character, including volunteerism, sportsmanship and community leadership. Any class year is eligible, senior status has no bearing on a candidate’s merit and selections are made independent of ESPNU’s recruit rankings.

To nominate a student-athlete for Player of the Year honors, contact the POY team at poy@risemag.com.