A metro Atlanta football player received not one, but two surprises Tuesday morning.
Marietta High School tight end Arik Gilbert earned the 2019 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year Award. Channel 2 Action News was there as Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan surprised Gilbert with the award at the high school.
The Gatorade Player of the Year awards, established in 1985, honors the nation’s top high school athletes for their accomplishments on and off the field in 12 different sports.
Gilbert beat out more than 1 million other football players from around the country and becomes the first player in Georgia to win the national football award.
The senior tight end helped lead the Blue Devils to a 13-2 season and their first state title since 1967. Gilbert has a long list of accolades during his four years, including:
- Named Region 3 Offensive Player of the Year as a junior
- Ranked as the nation’s No. 1 tight end prospect in the Class of 2020 by ESPN and Rivals
- Ranked No. 11 in the country regardless of position by Rivals
- Two-time all-state honoree
- Selected to play in 2020 All-American Bowl
Channel 2 Action News selected Gilbert as an Athlete of the Week last month.
The senior isn’t just a success on the field. Gilbert created a program at Marietta High School called “Whisper."
The program promotes students to have device-free conversations and support diversity and inclusion efforts in the school and community.
Gilbert volunteers for East Atlanta Kids Club, Habitat for Humanity and March of Dimes. He has also dedicated more than 50 hours to local elementary schools and Marietta’s youth football program.
Gilbert, who has maintained a 3.14 GPA, has verbally committed to playing at LSU next fall.
Past football player of the year winners have had great success in the NFL.
Six have gone on to become first round picks in the NFL Draft. They have also combined for six NFL MVP awards and 30 Pro Bowl appearances.
Other Georgians to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award
2004: Dwight Howard, Boys Basketball
2007: Maya Moore, Girls Basketball
2010: Kaleb Cowart, Baseball
2011: Morgan Brian, Girls Soccer
2012: Geri Ann Glasco, Softball
2013: Clint Frazier, Baseball
2013: Kendell Williams, Girls Track & Field
2015: Candace Hill, Girls Track & Field
2016: Ella Stevens, Girls Soccer
2019: Kelley Lynch, Softball
2019: Omar Hernandez, Boys Soccer