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Friday, November 11, 2011
National POY Watch: Football contenders

By Ben Rohrbach

Everybody knows a guy’s gotta win his own state first before he gets a shot at being Gatorade National Football Player of the Year. That said, two elite performers to this point in the season are among those making a bid to be honored as the best of the best once the calendar turns to December. The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. There’s plenty more work to be done, but here are two top candidates who remain in contention to win their own state and could someday call themselves a National POY.

Johnathan Gray
Johnathan Gray led Aledo High (Texas) to the Class 4A Division II state title as a sophomore.
Johnathan Gray
Senior running back, Aledo (Texas)

2011 Team record: 9-2 (Class 4A, Division II)
2011 Team standing: Class 4A, Div. II area round vs. Friday's Mansfield Summit/Waco winner on Nov. 17

2011 Carries-YDs (AVG.)-TDs: 224-2,628 (11.7)-50
2011 Catches-YDs (AVG.)-TDs: 21-465 (22.1)-5

Academics: B average
Collegiate destination: University of Texas (verbal)

How he’s played himself into the National POY conversation: Ranks No. 2 on national prep career points and touchdowns lists. Owns state records for TDs in a season (59) and career. 2010-11 Gatorade Texas Football Player of the Year. No. 8 national recruit in Class of 2012 as ranked by ESPNU. 2010 ESPNHS Mr. Football USA National Player of the Year. 2009 and 2010 Class 4A Player of the Year as named by the Texas Sports Writers Association. 2009 and 2010 First Team All-State selection. 2009 and 2010 Class 4A Division II championship game MVP. 2009 and 2010 Class 4A Division II state champion.

National POY Watch: Connor Brewer
Chaparral High (Ariz.) QB Connor Brewer threw for five TDs in a game on ESPN2 this season.
Connor Brewer
Senior quarterback, Chaparral (Paradise Valley, Ariz.)

2011 Team record: 12-1 (Division II)
2011 Team standing: Div. II state semifinal vs. Centennial on Nov. 18

2011 COMP-ATT (%)-YDs: 155-241 (64.3)-2,653
2011 TDs-INTs: 41-5

Academics: A average
Collegiate destination: University of Texas (verbal)

How he’s played himself into the National POY conversation: Owns state record with 97 career touchdown passes. 208.78 NCAA Pass Efficiency Rating. Has thrown at least three touchdown passes in 10 straight games. Passed for 273 yards and five touchdowns in 59-7 win over Notre Dame Prep on Sept. 30 in a game nationally televised on ESPN2. No. 34 national recruit in Class of 2012 as ranked by ESPNU. 2010 Class 5A, Division II First Team All-State selection as named by the Arizona Football Coaches Association.

Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Football Player of the Year races aren’t over yet, and the National POY race has just begun. Here are some other state contenders who’ve also entered the National POY conversation in this 2011 campaign.

Dorial Green-Beckham: Hillcrest (Springfield, Mo.) senior wide receiver
Keith Marshall: Millbrook (Raleigh, N.C.) senior running back
Maty Mauk: Kenton (Ohio) senior quarterback
Jameis Winston: Hueytown (Ala.) senior quarterback

Think we're missing a deserving Gatorade State or National Player of the Year candidate? Let us know via e-mail at ESPNHS_GPOY@ESPN.com or Twitter @ESPNHS_GPOY.

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.

The Gatorade Player of the Year Program honors athletes who meet comprehensive and exacting criteria in high school sports. Candidates are judged on athletic production and impact in the current season. Contenders also must demonstrate high academic achievement and exemplary personal character, including volunteerism, sportsmanship and community leadership. Senior status has no bearing on a candidate’s merit and selections are made independent of ESPNHS recruit rankings.