"Gatorade Player of the Year. That's about as big as it gets."
Those were the words of Class of 2021 NFL Hall of Fame inductee, Peyton Manning Thursday morning as he announced via social media that Georgia quarterback Brock Vandagriff was named the 2020-2021 Gatorade Player of the Year.
Vandagriff joins an elite company in terms of the history of the award. Joining names across the world of sports like Kyler Murray, LeBron James, and Maya Moore. But also joins his teammate on the annuals of the prestigious award.
Georgia now has two quarterbacks on the roster — JT Daniels and Brock Vandagriff — that have Gatorade Player of the Year attached to their resume.
Vandagriff threw for 4169 yards on 70% completion percentage with 46 passing touchdowns on top of an additional 503 yards on the ground and 17 rushing touchdowns on his way to a GHSA State title for Prince Avenue Christian.
All while playing on a partially torn ligament in his left knee. Pretty remarkable stuff from the now Georgia quarterback.
He's as physically impressive as any quarterback in the country when you consider the measurables of height, weight, speed, and pure arm strength.
Though it's more than that with Vandagriff, Georgia received a well-rounded person as well. As were the requirements of the award:
The Gatorade Player of the Year award was established in 1985 to recognize the nation’s most elite high school student-athletes for their athletic excellence, academic achievement, and exemplary character.
Exemplary character. Something that is always on display when watching Vandagriff on the field. Here's a portion of an article written in September of 2020 following Vandagriff's one and only loss during his senior season to Rabun County and fellow Georgia commit Gunner Stockton.
"On a muggy night in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, you'd expect a wet surface on a natural grass field. It was Vandagriff that was calling for new footballs during drives in order to ensure his team had the best opportunity to catch and carry the football.
But the most impressive thing I witnessed from Vandagriff on Friday night, happened in the midst of the third quarter with his team down two scores, and it occurred with him on the sideline watching his defense attempt to stop a Rabun team that was driving the length of the field.
I consider myself rather knowledgeable when it comes to the game of football. I'm no Bill Belicheck, but I pride myself on knowing the ins and outs of the game, and I've honestly never witnessed what I'm about to attempt to convey to you.
Prince Avenue's starting cornerback goes down with what appeared to be either a cramp, or some minor lower-leg injury, and as I'm standing next to Vandagriff on the sideline before his coaching staff even had the opportunity to see one of their players down. Before the training staff even thought about running onto the field, Vandagriff was shouting for that player's backup to begin getting loose.
"DAVE!" He shouts. "Dave, start getting loose." As the coaching staff finally begins to recognize what is happening.
It all seems so simple, but I've been on the sidelines with prospects that barely know what their counterparts are doing, let alone attentive enough to not only identify there's an injury but aware enough to know exactly who the player designated to replace the injured teammate is.
That is leadership.
That is something that the stars, the rankings, the statistics will never show you. Sure, I could rave about the arm talent. I could rave about the ability to make plays with his legs, to make dynamic throws on the run.
But that? I've never seen that from a player.
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