Gatorade Player of the Year Winners List Has a Heavy Oklahoma Flavor

Sooners signee Kelvin Gilliam wins the award in Virginia, and a past Sooner QB commit, a  former Sooners target, and two current priority recruits win in their states.
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Oklahoma defensive line signee Kelvin Gilliam was named Gatorade Virginia Player of the Year on Thursday — one of several players with ties or future ties to there Sooners.

Gilliam, a member of the Sooners’ 2021 signing class, played his senior season at Highland Springs High School this spring.

“Kelvin Gilliam is just a pure, all-around ball player,” said Marcus Lewis, head coach at Varina High School, in a Gatorade press release. “He’s strong and fundamentally sound, and he continued to get better and better over the years. He can run over people on defense, and he forces you to go the other way.”

The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Gilliam recorded 48 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback sacks and two safeties this year, and led the Springers (9-1) to the Class 5A state championship game. The Highland Springs defense recorded five shutouts and allowed just 4.4 points per game during Gilliam’s senior season. He also was named Region 5B Defensive Player of the Year and First Team Virginia All-State.

The Gatorade Player of the Year Award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence along with academic achievement and exemplary character on and off the field.

Gilliam also has served as a peer tutor at his school and has volunteered locally feeding the homeless while maintaining a 4.16 GPA in the classroom.

Gilliam will arrive at OU for the summer session in June.

Former Sooner quarterback commit Brock Vandagriff — Lincoln Riley’s initial choice for a quarterback in the 2021 class before Caleb Williams got interested in OU last winter before Vandagriff’s flip to Georgia — was named Gatorade Player of the Year in Georgia.

Beggs safety Kendal Daniels — who was recruited to OU as a linebacker but verbally committed to play defensive back at Texas A&M before flipping to Oklahoma State — is the Gatorade Player of the Year in Oklahoma.

Two players Oklahoma is heavily recruiting also won the award in their respective states.

Malachi Nelson, a dual-threat quarterback in the 2023 class, is the Gatorade Player of the Year in California, and Gavin Sawchuck, a running back in the 2022 class, is Gatorade Player of the Year in Colorado. OU is considered a front-runner for both players.

Nelson, a 6-3, 180-pound sophomore at Los Alamitos (CA) High School, led the Griffins to a 6-0 record this past season while throwing for 1,513 yards and 23 touchdowns. He completed 73.9 percent of his throws and averaged 13.2 yards per attempt.

Nelson threw for 376 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns in one half against Huntington Beach on his way to earning Sophomore All-American honors from MaxPreps, and the Golden Gun Accuracy Challenge winner at the Elite 11 Los Angeles Regional last June. He is ranked as the nation’s No. 2 overall recruit in the Class of 2023 by Rivals.com.

Sawchuck, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound junior running back at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, CO, rushed for 1,239 yards and 17 touchdowns this past season, leading the Eagles (7-1) to the Class 5A state championship game.

Sawchuk averaged 9.5 yards per carry and also returned a kickoff for a score. A two-time First Team Colorado All-State selection, Sawchuk is ESPN’s No. 65-ranked recruit in the Class of 2022.