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In its 39th year of honoring the nation's most elite high school athletes for excellence on and off the field of play, Gatorade today announced DJ Lagway of Willis High School in Willis, Texas is the 2023-24 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year.
Lagway joins an impressive group of former Gatorade National Football Players of the Year who have combined for more than six NFL MVPs awards, 31 Pro Bowl appearances, six NFL first round draft picks and two Hall of Famers. Lagway was selected from more than one million other student-athletes who play high school football nationwide after being named a Top-3 finalist for the top-honor in high-school sports.
Former NFL star, Florida Gator and 1986-87 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year Emmitt Smith surprised Lagway with the trophy at the University of Florida surrounded by Lagway’s family, coaches and teammates. Lagway, who arrived on campus for move-in that morning, thought he was needed for a content shoot on the football field but walked in to find Smith holding the trophy instead. Afterwards, Lagway got a taste of the pro athlete experience with a styling session, photoshoot and media interviews.
Gatorade Player of the Year is the top honor in high school sports, celebrating the nation’s best high school athletes for their success on and off the playing surface. From CEOs and coaches to star athletes, Gatorade Player of the Year winners showcase the power of sport, touting an all-star group of football alumni that includes Peyton Manning, Nick Singleton and Jackson Arnold.
Gatorade Players of the Year are not only the best of the best in their respective sports, but they’re also leaders in the classroom and in their communities. Lagway has volunteered locally at eldercare facilities, playing games and creating arts and crafts with the residents. He also has donated his time to a community foodbank and as a public speaker at schools and churches in the area, speaking with younger students about what it takes to succeed in school as well as athletics. Lagway has maintained a 3.48 GPA in the classroom and is enrolled at the University of Florida, where he will play football next fall.
“Selecting Lagway as the top high school football player in the nation is a testament to his hard work on the field, in the classroom and in his community,” said Gatorade president and general manager Michael Del Pozzo. “His athleticism combined with his contributions in his community and classroom embody what it takes to be a Gatorade Player of the Year.”
As part of Gatorade’s commitment to breaking down barriers in sport, every Player of the Year also receives a grant to donate to a social impact partner. To date, the Gatorade Player of the Year program has provided more than $4.9 million in grants to winners across more than 1,900 organizations.
To learn more about the Gatorade Player of the Year program, check out past winners or to nominate student-athletes, visit playeroftheyear.gatorade.com.
VYPE caught up with Willis High School Girls Soccer Coach Sean Day at their 2023 Winter Media Day, discussing the upcoming season and more!
Check out the interview below!