In its 34th year of honoring the nation’s most elite high school athletes, The Gatorade Company today announced Jake Smith of Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale, Ariz. as the 2018-19 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year. Smith won the award for his accomplishments on and off the field, joining a group of previous winners that includes Emmitt Smith (1986-87, Escambia High School, Fla.), Matthew Stafford (2005-06 Highland Park High School, Texas) and Christian McCaffrey (2012-13, 2013-14, Valor Christian High School, Colo.).
Smith was surprised with the award at his school among teammates and family by Arizona Cardinals Quarterback Josh Rosen. Check out a video of the announcement here:
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 Smith as the nation’s best high school football player. A national advisory panel comprised of sport-specific experts and sports journalists helped select Smith from more than one million high school football players nationwide. Smith is now a finalist for the most prestigious award in high school sports, the Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award, which is announced at a special ceremony prior to The ESPY Awards in July.
“Jake Smith is one of the nation’s most explosive athletes, capable of scoring from anywhere on the field,” says Greg Biggins, National Recruiting Analyst for 247Sports. “He can line up anywhere: out wide, in the slot and even in the backfield and brings a ton of versatility and big-play potential. He’s an impact return man on special teams as well, and has drawn comparisons to former Stanford star, Heisman runner-up and current Carolina Panther playmaker Christian McCaffrey.”
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior running back and wide receiver caught 64 passes for 1,112 yards and 22 touchdowns this past season, leading the Saints (13-1) to the AIA 5A state championship game. An Under Armour All-American Bowl selection, Smith also rushed for 741 yards and 15 TDs, returning two kickoffs for scores as well. He recorded 20 tackles from the defensive secondary, including 4.5 sacks, and averaged more than 38 yards per punt. He concluded his prep football career with 5,446 total yards and 72 TDs.
Smith’s work in the community includes volunteering locally on behalf of St. Bernard of Clairvaux Catholic Church, St. Mary’s Food Bank Community Kitchen, Feed My Starving Children and the Miracle League of Arizona. Additionally, Smith has maintained a weighted 3.33 grade point average in the classroom. He has verbally committed to play football on an athletic scholarship at the University of Texas in the fall of 2019.
“Jake Smith is being recognized as one of the nation’s most elite high school athletes for his accomplishments on and off the field,” said Gatorade Senior Vice President and General Manager, Brett O’Brien. “He is an inspiration to younger athletes and the example of what a student-athlete should be. He embodies everything we look for in a Gatorade Player of the Year recipient.”
Through Gatorade’s cause marketing platform “Play it Forward,” Smith also has the opportunity to award a $1,000 grant to a local or national youth sports organization of his choosing. He is also eligible to submit an essay to win one of 12 $10,000 spotlight grants for the organization of choice, which will be announced throughout the year.
Each year a selection committee evaluates the nation’s top talent in the District of Columbia and all 50 states, choosing national winners in 12 different sports: football, boys and girls basketball, baseball, boys and girls soccer, softball, boys and girls track & field, girls volleyball and boys and girls cross country. From the 12 national winners, one male and one female athlete are each named Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year.
Since the program’s inception in 1985, Gatorade Player of the Year award recipients have won hundreds of professional and college championships, and many have also turned into pillars in their communities, becoming coaches, business owners and educators. Previous winners include a distinguished list of athletes, such as Peyton Manning, Abby Wambach, Karl-Anthony Towns, Derek Jeter and many other sports icons. To learn more about the Gatorade Player of the Year program, check out past winners or to nominate student-athletes, visit: