CHICAGO — In its third decade of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with ESPN RISE, today announced Jeff Driskel of Paul J. Hagerty High School as its 2010-11 Gatorade Florida Football Player of the Year. Driskel is the first Gatorade Florida Football Player of the Year to be chosen from Paul J. Hagerty High School.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Driskel as Florida’s best high school football player.
Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Football Player of the Year award to be announced later this month, Driskel joins an elite alumni association of past state award-winners in 12 sports, including Mark Sanchez (2004-05, Mission Viejo HS, Calif.), Wes Welker (1999-00, Heritage Hall HS, Okla.), Terrell Suggs (1999-00, Hamilton HS, Ariz.), Anquan Boldin (1998-99, Pahokee HS, Fla.) and Jerome Bettis (1989-90, Mackenzie HS, Mich.).
Driskel is the third Seminole County athlete to be named Gatorade Florida Football Player of the Year, joining Lake Howell running back Marquette Smith in 1990-91 and Lake Mary linebacker Keith Rivers in 2003-04.
Smith, currently an assistant coach at Trinity Prep who went on to star at FSU and UCF before having a promising NFL career cut short by injuries, was also named the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year in 1990-91.
Rivers went on to become an All-American at USC and was a first round NFL draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals for whom he is now considered one of the best in the NFL.
One other name on the list of former Florida winners also stands out, as current Lake Mary Prep head coach Sheddrick “Buck” Gurley, who later went on to star at the University of Florida, was named the 1995-96 Gatorade Florida Football Player of the Year as a linebacker at Godby High School in Tallahassee.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior quarterback completed 138-of-235 attempts for 1,783 yards and 16 touchdowns against just three interceptions, leading the Huskies (7-3) to their first-ever Class 6A state tournament berth this past season. In the 56-35 first-round loss to Lakeland, Driskel amassed 488 total yards and five touchdowns. An Under Armour All-American, he also rushed for 1,296 yards and 20 touchdowns on 151 carries in addition to hauling in two receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns this past fall. He concluded his career as Hagerty’s leader in every passing and rushing statistical category.
Driskel has maintained a 3.67 weighted GPA in the classroom. He has volunteered locally on behalf of his church, a food bank and a campaign against drunk driving.
“I have been around high school football my entire life, and Jeff Driskel’s performance and effort in turning our program around is the greatest thing I have ever seen,” said Hagerty Head Coach Nate Gierke. “He is the best high school football player I have ever coached or seen in person.”
Driskel has verbally committed to play football on scholarship at the University of Florida beginning in the fall of 2011.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by ESPN RISE and the Gatorade high school sports leadership team, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Driskel joins recent Gatorade Florida Football Players of the Year Matt Elam (2009-10, William T. Dwyer), Jacobbi McDaniel (2008-09, Madison County) and Brandon Harris (2007-08, Booker T. Washington), not to mention 1986-87 winner Emmitt Smith, the NFL Hall of Fame running back who starred at Escambia High School in Pensacola before heading to Florida and NFL fame, among the state’s list of former award winners.