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Gatorade National Football Player of the Year

1/12/2012
Travis Brown/ESPNHS

The gridiron version of Aledo (Texas) senior Johnathan Gray is well known to high school football fans. Record-setting running back, move-the-chains machine, touchdown maker, and now, 2011-12 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year.

Lesser known to fans is Gray's 95 grade average as a senior, his 40-minute round trip day after day to visit a schoolmate he barely knew during her stay in a cancer ward. In other words, the consummate package of student-athlete.

"I'm so honored. This is truly a blessing," the 5-foot-10, 202-pound University of Texas-bound senior said Tuesday after winning the Gatorade award. "It's humbling to have people speak highly of my character. I work hard in the classroom and I help folks off the field because that's what I was taught. That's who I am. I'm so excited to be recognized as a player and a person."

Gray learned he'd won after an early-morning practice Tuesday. The surprise news arrived via a phone call to the Aledo fieldhouse from former NFL MVP and current New York Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who played high school ball at Waco's University High.

"I'm so glad he was the one who told me," said Gray, 18, whose father, James, earned second team collegiate All-American honors in 1989 and remains No. 2 on Texas Tech's list of career rushing leaders. "He's another Texas guy, and I was lucky enough to meet him once when I was a sophomore. It was pretty exciting to hear his voice on the phone and hear him saying what he was saying."

Gray, the No. 5 recruit in the ESPNU 150, is now a finalist for the Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award, to be presented at a special afternoon ceremony prior to the ESPY Awards in July. This season, he's led the Bearcats to a 12-2 record and a berth in the Class 4A, Division II state semifinals against Corsicana High, scheduled for Friday. Aledo is gunning for its third consecutive state title.

For the complete story on ESPNHS.com, click here.

Want to know who won Gatorade Football Player of the Year in your state? Click here. Want to be the first to find out who wins the 11 remaining 2011-12 Gatorade Player of the Year honors in your state? Follow the ESPNHS team that manages the awards program's selection process on Twitter @ESPNHS_Awards or visit the ESPNHS Player of the Year blog.