If there was a vote taken among nationwide media companies that follow high school football about the top individual honor for the 2008 season, it would be a landslide for quarterback Garrett Gilbert from Lake Travis High of Austin, Texas.
For a list of the EA Sports All-America Football Team go here: All-America Football
For a list of the EA Sports Junior and Sophomore Teams go here: All-America Jr & Soph
Gilbert’s latest award was chosen as the first EA SPORTS Mr. Football USA. The honor was announced on January 22 on ESPNEWS. He already received top national honors as the Gatorade Player of the Year and similar status from USA Today, Parade Magazine and others.
Gilbert also is one of 60 players nationwide to receive EA SPORTS All-American football honors. Thirty of those players have been selected to the first team with 30 more on second team.
Also receiving a major national honor recently was head coach George Smith from St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In January, the longtime coach of the Raiders was named the EA SPORTS National Coach of the Year.
“We’re proud to honor these young men and are looking forward to seeing these players continue to compete at a high level as they move on in their football careers,” said Brian Movalson, EA SPORTS Director of Sports Marketing. “The EA SPORTS All-American honor is becoming one of the best in high school athletics because of the way they are done and because of the people who do the research behind the scenes. These student-athletes truly represent the best in the game in high school athletics.”
In his final high school game, Gilbert, a 6-4, 200-pounder, threw for five touchdowns and ran for two others as Lake Travis completed a 16-0 season with a 48-23 victory over Longview in the Class 4A Division I state final.
In addition to leading a championship team for two straight years (Lake Travis also won a state crown in Gilbert’s junior season) and a team that was No. 3 in the final ESPN RISE FAB 50 national rankings, Gilbert amassed record-breaking passing totals. He ended the season with a state-record 4,851 yards and had 55 TD passes. At one point during the year, he had 38 TDs and just two interceptions. Gilbert also set a new Texas state career passing record with 12,534 yards, breaking the previous mark by just two yards that was held by current Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell.
“Just this whole year has been incredible,” Gilbert said recently from his home in Austin. “Winning it all with an undefeated season and all that has come after has been great.”
Since 1982 when the USA Today honors began coming out, there have been just four other players who have had a similar consensus national player of the year sweep that Gilbert has enjoyed for 2008.
Two of those were for 1985 and 1986 when virtually everyone chose quarterback Jeff George from Warren Central of Indianapolis in 1985 and then a year later running back Emmitt Smith came along at Escambia of Pensacola, Fla., and shattered numerous records.
In 1993, when current NFL MVP Peyton Manning was at Isadore Newman of New Orleans, there were some in Louisiana who liked Josh Booty of Evangel Christian for the highest honors, but nationally Manning was a clean sweep.
The last player before Gilbert this season to get a similar honors landslide would be quarterback-running back Ronald Curry of Hampton, Va., for 1997. Part of the reason for Curry’s dominance is that his team at Hampton was among the highest-ranked in the nation in 1996 during his junior year and then was No. 1 in the nation in 1997.
“It’s definitely something you can’t do without your teammates,” Gilbert said of being placed alongside names such as those above. “Football is the ultimate team game. That shows in the record and everything else.”
This week, Gilbert is signing a letter of intent with the University of Texas and should benefit being behind Heisman Trophy candidate Colt McCoy, who recently announced he would be returning to Austin next season.
“I am looking forward to learning a lot from Colt about how things are done and I’m excited about going there,” Gilbert said.
Being so close to home also will allow Garrett to keep track of his younger brother, Griffin, a 6-5 freshman who caught passes on the varsity from his older brother this season. Both Garrett and Griffin are the sons of former University of California and NFL quarterback Gale Gilbert, who appeared in five Super Bowls.
Smith has been inundated with coaching honors for the 2008 season, and that only makes sense. He recently received the American Football Coaches Association Power of Influence Award at the AFCA national banquet in Nashville.
In addition to guiding St. Thomas Aquinas to a 15-0 record, second straight Florida Class 5A state title and the ESPN RISE mythical national title, Smith also won the fifth state title of his career. In his 32nd year at STA, he has an overall record of 333-65. He also has been runner-up in the state seven times.
This year’s team was expected to be strong with numerous returning starters off of last season’s 14-1 club. But it’s never completely automatic for any team in powerful Florida and to strengthen his team’s schedule even more (Smith also is the school’s athletic director) he accepted a bid to play Elder of Cincinnati to open the season at the Kirk Herbstreit Varsity Challenge Series.
“We got down 10-0 early in the game, but we were unpracticed and untested while they already had one game and two scrimmages under their belt,” Smith recalled during a recent interview. “We came back to win, but the whole thing about that trip was that we were together for 44 hours and out of 103 people who traveled we didn’t have one single issue that came up. The experience couldn’t have been better in bringing us together.”
After getting past Elder, 35-24, the Raiders went on to dominate the rest of their schedule, including a 57-6 romp past Lakeland in the Class 5A state final. Just two years ago, Lakeland was the No. 1 team in the nation. Elder also went on to have a strong season as it reached the Division I state final in Ohio and was the top-ranked team in highly-competitive Cincinnati.
“The whole point of each season is that you’ve got to get the kids to believe that they can get better and better each week,” Smith said. “That happened this year after we played Miramar and their top quarterback, Eugene Smith. We beat them 49-2 and we just got better and better. A lot of teams I’ve seen as they get down the stretch toward the end of the season didn’t get better.”EA SPORTS Mr. Football
Players of the Year (All-Time List)
2008 – Garrett Gilbert (Lake Travis, Austin TX) QB
2007 – Jacory Harris (Northwestern, Miami FL) QB
2006 – Darren Evans (Warren Central, Indianapolis IN) FB
2005 – Matt Stafford (Highland Park, Dallas TX) QB
2004 – Chase Daniel (Carroll, Southlake TX) QB
2003 – Jeff Byers (Loveland CO) OL-DL
2002 – Chris Leak (Independence, Charlotte NC) QB
2001 – Vince Young (Madison, Houston TX) QB
2000 – Cedric Benson (Robert E. Lee, Midland TX) RB
1999 – D.J. Williams (De La Salle, Concord CA) RB-LB
1998 – J.R. House (Nitro WV) QB
1997 – Ronald Curry (Hampton VA) QB-RB
1996 – Travis Henry (Frostproof FL) RB
1995 – Tim Couch (Leslie County, Hyden KY) QB
1994 – Chris Redman (Male, Louisville KY) QB
1993 – Peyton Manning (Newman, New Orleans LA) QB
1992 – James Allen (Wynnewood OK) RB
1991 – Steven Davis (Spartanburg SC) RB
1990 – Derrick Brooks (Washington, Pensacola FL) LB
1989 – Robert Smith (Euclid OH) RB
1988 – Terry Kirby (Tabb VA) RB
1987 – Carl Pickens (Murphy NC) WR
1986 – Emmitt Smith (Escambia, Pensacola FL) RB
1985 – Jeff George (Warren Central, Indianapolis IN) QB
1984 – Andre Rison (Northwestern, Flint MI) WR-DB
1983 – Chris Spielman (Washington, Massillon OH) LB
1982 – Rod Woodson (Snider, Fort Wayne IN) WR-DB
1981 – Marcus Dupree (Philadelphia MS) RB
1980 – Bill Fralic (Penn Hills, Pittsburgh PA) OL
1979 – Herschel Walker (Johnson County, Wrightsville GA) RB
1978 – Eric Dickerson (Sealy TX) RB
1977 – Marcus Allen (Lincoln, San Diego CA) QB-RB
1976 – Freeman McNeil (Banning, Wilmington CA) RB
1975 – Charles White (San Fernando CA) RB
1974 – Billy Sims (Hooks TX) RB
1973 – Earl Campbell (John Tyler, Tyler TX) RB
1972 – Tony Dorsett (Hopewell PA) RB
1971 – Dave Logan (Wheat Ridge CO) WR
1970 – Pat Haden (Bishop Amat, La Puente CA) QBEA SPORTS All-Time
National Coach of the Year Honor Roll
(Based on research by Doug Huff prior to 1999)
2008 – George Smith (St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
2007 – Mike Grant (Eden Prairie, Eden Prairie, Minn.)
2006 – J.T. Curtis (John Curtis Christian, River Ridge, La.)
2005 – Ricky Woods (South Panola, Batesville, Miss.)
2004 – Gary Rankin (Riverdale, Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
2003 – Tom Knotts (Independence, Charlotte, N.C.)
2002 – Gene Wier (North, Olathe, Kan.)
2001 – Dave Carruthers (Urbana, Ijamsville, Md.)
2000 – John Herrington (Harrison, Farmington Hills, Mich.)
1999 – Roger DuPaix (Skyline, Salt Lake City, Utah)
1998 – Mike Pettine (Central Bucks West, Doylestown, Pa.)
1997 – Chris Geesman (Penn, Mishawaka, Ind.)
1996 – Bob Ladouceur (De La Salle, Concord, Calif.)
1995 – Chuck Kyle (St. Ignatius, Cleveland, Ohio)
1994 – Bruce Rollinson (Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif.)
1993 – Pete Adkins (Jefferson City, Mo.)
1992 – George Curry (Berwick, Pa.)
1991 – Dick Dullaghan (Ben Davis, Indianapolis, Ind.)
1990 – Billy Gillum (Ruston, La.)
1989 – Cal Lee (St. Louis, Honolulu, Hawaii)
1988 – Harold Clark (Vigor, Prichard, Ala.)
1987 – Lou Rettino (Union, N.J.)
1986 – Nick Hyder (Valdosta, Ga.)
1985 – Charlie Wedemeyer (Los Gatos, Calif.)
1984 – John McKissisk (Summerville, S.C.)
1983 – Bob Shannon (East St. Louis, Ill.)
1982 – Fred Tesone (Cherry Creek, Englewood, Colo.)
1981 – Marijon Ancich (St. Paul, Santa Fe Springs, Calif.)
1980 – Gerry Faust (Moeller, Cincinnati, Ohio)
1979 – Ron Lancaster (Cordova, Rancho Cordova, Calif.)
1978 – Gordon Wood (Brownswood, Texas)
1977 – Chris Ferragamo (Banning, Wilmington, Calif.)
1976 – Calvin Chai (Kamehameha, Honolulu, Hawaii)
1975 – Sid Cichy (Shanley, Fargo, N.D.)
1974 – Dick Haines (Vista, Calif.)
1973 – E.B. Etter (Baylor, Chattanooga, Tenn.)
1972 – Gary Kehler (Westfield, N.J.)
1971 – Herman Boone (T.C. Williams, Alexandria, Va.)
1970 – Travis Raven (Reagan, Austin, Texas)