LOS ANGELES -- Greg Paulus, the nation's top high school
football player, and volleyball phenom Cynthia Barboza were named
Gatorade national high school players of the year Wednesday.
"I felt small," said Paulus, a senior from Christian Brothers
Academy in Syracuse, N.Y. "It's so much fun to be here. You just
dream of being like that, making it to that status."
Paulus led his school to its first state football championship,
and was named MVP of the title game last season.
"I grew up trying to be Peyton Manning. I tried to play a
little bit like him, with the way he reads defenses and the way he
takes control of the game," he said. "I even wear my Peyton
Manning jersey under my football jersey."
Manning even gave Paulus some tips over dinner the night before.
But Paulus' future will be playing basketball at Duke.
"That's where my heart is," he said. "That's where I want to
be and what I want to do. Duke has got the full package and I'm
excited about getting started."
Paulus averaged 26.8 points, 8.2 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 3.4
steals last season.
"The common thing that everybody talks about is working hard
and the dedication you must have," he said. "They're at a level
where I'm not at yet. I'm trying to get to that level."
Barboza, a senior from Woodrow Wilson Classical High in Long
Beach, was an alternate on the U.S. volleyball team for the Athens
Olympics. She is a two-time Gatorade national volleyball player of
She received her award from Los Angeles Sparks center Lisa
Leslie and retired soccer star Mia Hamm.
"I was trying hard not to shake," said Barboza, an outside
hitter who had 476 kills, 41 blocks and 52 service aces in 82 games
"I'm just at a loss for words," she said. "It's just such an
amazing tradition for me to try to uphold and just seeing where all
the athletes who have won it have gone. I'm really pretty excited
to see where it takes me."
Barboza plans to attend Stanford, with an eventual goal of
playing in the 2008 Olympics and on the pro beach volleyball
circuit for "the free tan," she said, laughing.
The other boys' nominees were: soccer player Lee Nguyen of
Richardson, Texas; basketball player Greg Oden of Indianapolis;
baseball player Justin Upton of Chesapeake, Va.; and shot
putter-discus thrower Ryan Whiting of Harrisburg, Pa.
The other girls' nominees were: soccer player Amy Rodriguez of
Lake Forest, Calif.; basketball player Abby Waner of Highlands
Ranch, Colo.; softball player Dani Hofer of Safety Harbor, Fla.;
and jumper Brittany Daniels of Tracy, Calif.
Now in their third year, the awards are based on athletic
performance, impact on team success and accomplishment so far. A
national sports media panel votes on the winners.
NBA star LeBron James and Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix won the
inaugural awards. The NBA's Howard and WNBA's Candace Parker were
honored last year.