MAXPREPS 2008-09 MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Who: Garrett Gilbert
School: Lake Travis (Austin, Texas)
Size: 6-foot-4, 218 pounds
Numbers: 302 completions, 436 attempts, 4,851 yards, 55 touchdowns, 6 interceptions; 115 carries (including sacks), 767 yards, 23 touchdowns. … Texas state-record holder for single season (4,851) and career passing yards (12,537). … According to Austin Statesmen, ranks second in state history in career TDs (136), attempts (1,368) and completions (895).
Breakout performance: Too many to count, but final three playoff games were hard to top: 66-91-983-11-3 passing and 37-262-6 rushing. … In state 4A Division I title game, he completed 25 of 34 for 358 yards and four scores and rushed 16 times for 78 yards and two TDs leading team to 48-23 win over Longview. … Travis finished 16-0 and won its second straight state title. … Finished career with 29 consecutive wins.
Quotes: “For all that he did on the field, he did 10 times more off of it.” – Lake Travis All-State lineman Paden Kelley.
“There’s nothing this kid can’t do.” – Lake Travis coach Chad Morris.
Final voting: Garrett Gilbert 28 points (four first-place votes), Curtis Beach 24 points (2), Bryan Peters 15 points, Tyler Gaffney (1) 11 points, Donavan Tate eight points, Mason Finley four points. (See biographies below).
Monday: No. 10 MaxPreps National Story of the Year — A surprise national basketball champion out of the West.
June 24-July 15: Remaining nine 2008-09 National Stories of the Year.
It’s not written anywhere. There’s no rule book against it. But if there was a football coaching bible published somewhere — most likely right in the heart of central Texas — the first, maybe second, commandment might very well read:
Thou shall not run up the record book.
Frankly, Lake Travis (Austin, Texas) High School coach Chad Morris didn’t give a hoot.
Make no mistake, Morris respects the game, his opponent, Texas coaches.
He’s one of the most respected himself in the Lone Star state.
During 17 seasons, he’s reached five state-title games with three different teams doing things all the right way.
But this was for Texas folklore. This was for high school royalty.
Most important, this was for senior quarterback Garrett Gilbert, the 2008-09 MaxPreps Male Athlete of the Year.
Gilbert beat out arguably the most versatility high school track and field athlete ever (Curtis Beach), three remarkably talented and versatile athletes (Bryan Peters, Tyler Gaffney and Donovan Tate), along with a gigantic national record-breaking discus thrower (Mason Finley) to claim the honor.
He was 34 yards from becoming the state’s career leader in passing yards, surpassing the 12,535 total of Ennis prep legend and former Texas Tech standout Graham Harrell.
The rub here was that only two minutes remained in the Texas 4A Division I title game, one Lake Travis had well in hand, up 48-23 against Longview.
Few things or people supersede unwritten rules around these parts, but a kid of Gilbert’s makeup is beyond gridiron correctness.
Forget the fact he’s a 6-foot-4, 218-pound specimen, the son of former NFL quarterback Gale Gilbert, a kid who can make every throw known to quarterback kind or that he can run around fleet defensive ends or steel-spitting linebackers.
“I’ve coached seven Division I quarterbacks but I’m telling you there’s nothing Garrett can’t do,” Morris said.
Never mind that games of 300 yards passing and 100 rushing were passé for Gilbert or that accounting for anything less than five touchdowns was below average.
What set Gilbert truly apart is who the kid is, his leadership and humble nature.
His left tackle Paden Kelley, a 6-7, 280-pound giant of a kid who will join Gilbert down the road at the University of Texas, has been blocking for him since the third grade.
“For all that he does on the field, he does 10 times more things off of it,” he said. “Whenever we’re anxious or down or it’s third down, he just gets the team up and says ‘let’s do it again boys. Let’s put one more on the board.”
The team was already accustomed to Gilbert leading it to unfamiliar territory.
Lake Travis won its first state crown in 2007 – the Cavaliers had never made it past the second round prior — under coach Jeff Dicus, who then took over at Duncanville.
But Morris knew little about Gilbert except his exceptional talent and that he had set state single-season records for completions (359), attempts (555) and yards (4,827) as a junior.
The new coach and staff had come over from Stephenville and his first sight of Gilbert was him wearing a sling following surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right throwing shoulder.
Instead of his star player wallowing, Morris watched Gilbert mentor then promising freshman Michael Brewer, who figures to be a star in the future. He observed Gilbert sweat endlessly in the weight room to gain 20 pounds of needed muscle, particularly in the legs.
Morris watched Gilbert embrace and mold a new complex offense, one that went from Dicus’ pass-happy attack to something more balanced, to utilize the star quarterback’s fantastic running ability.
Besides being even more effective for the team, Gilbert could also shed the stereotype that he was simply a drop-back, pro-style quarterback, that he was athletic and mobile.
The end result was Gilbert more than doubled his rushing totals from 2007 (380 yards to 767) and almost quadrupled his rushing touchdowns (six to 23).
“He was hungry for some change and excited about it,” Morris said. “That excitement carried to the team.
"The thing is, as good a football player as I knew him to be I found out very early that he was a better person. He’s just a phenomenal leader, the best I’ve ever been associated with.”
It’s something he immolated from his dad, a gracious sort himself who had a storied athletic life.
Gale Gilbert grew up in high-profile California, but in the small rural Northern town of Red Bluff, where he led a Little League team to the World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
He latter starred in football at Cal, where he met his wife Kim, a cheerleader and former high school swimmer and tennis player in Danville (Calif.).
Gale's eight-year NFL career was primarily as a backup but he is the only player in league history to play in five straight Super Bowls, four with the Bills and one with the Chargers.
He’s quick to remind that he’s the only one to lose five straight Super Bowls as well.
Gale taught his son much more than humility, but how to treat others, especially teammates and coaches, who are like brothers and family.
Garrett spent many days as a toddler on NFL sidelines, absorbing it all. “He’d sit there and play catch by himself a lot of the time,” Gale said. “It was clear from a young age he loved the game and being around it. He loved learning about it.”
Dad coached him in Pop Warner from the third to sixth grade. Like pops, Garrett was one of the biggest kids in his age group, but unlike him, he played quarterback. Dad played the line and linebacker until switching to quarterback in high school.
“We both had strong arms early on but Garrett could run much better than I ever could,” Gale said. “Plus he sees the field much better than I did.”
And we mean the whole field.
Even though he accounted for a remarkable 78 touchdowns this season (55 passing, 23 rushing), Garrett Gilbert constantly deflected personal attention to the team success, which there has been no shortage of the last two seasons.
As accurate as his 69 percent completion rate, he was better at passing off praise to guys like All-State receiver and best friend Cade McCary (84 catches, 1,711 yards, 24 TDs), Austin Pollard (60 catches, 1,022 yards, 8 TDs), Chris Aydam (1,410 yards from scrimmage, 18 TDs) and Quinton Crow (197 tackles), to name a few.
And Garrett constantly reminded that none of the numbers were possible without the work of the linemen.
The key here being he meant it. It wasn't scripted. Gilbert is no robo-quarterback blue-printed for greatness. He's just a talented player who always wants to do his best and be true to his friends, Kelley said.
“He’s an amazing kid,” he said. “He always has been. He always does the right thing.”
So, it was almost predictable that when Morris wanted to go against the grain and get his star quarterback the record, Gilbert backed off.
According to Morris, the exchange went something like this.
“All right, get out there and get the record,” Morris said.
“Coach, I don’t care about the record,” Gilbert responded.
“Garrett, trust me, it doesn’t mean much to you now, but one of these days it will. It will mean something to the team too. So go on.”
“Coach, I’ll just take a knee and we’ll get out of here.”
“I’m taking this out of your hands son. Go get the record. That’s an order.”
Gilbert finally gave an approving smile.
“All right. Let’s go get it.”
Four completions later, Gilbert was the Texas passing king, having not only passed Harrell but most recent standouts such as Colt McCoy (Tuscola Jim Ned), Matt Stafford (Highland Park) and Chase Daniel and Riley Dodge, of Southlake Carroll.
Of course, the list of great Lone Star state quarterbacks runs as long and wide as Texas itself: Bobby Layne, Sammy Baugh, Drew Brees, Ty Detmer, Y.A. Tittle, Don Meredith and Vince Young to name just a few.
“When you’ve broke the all-time leading passing records in Texas, then you’ve really done something," Morris said.
He expects more of the same at Texas, where he appears the heir apparent to McCoy.
The morning of his high school graduation, Gilbert was starting his workouts at Texas. Days now are more than 12 hours long while preparing for the 2009 Longhorns' season.
His high school days are already long gone.
“Barring injury, he’s got a great opportunity to make a mark on college football like he did in high school,” Morris said. “He can make every throw and every run. I’m going have a lot of fun watching it.”
E-mail Mitch Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other nominees receiving votes
Curtis Beach (Albuquerque Academy, N.M. track and field): The greatest decathlete in high school history scored a remarkable 7,909 points during the Arcadia (Calif.) Invitational in April, breaking the old high school mark of 7,417. Consider these remarkable personal best marks: 100-meter dash (10.99), 200 (21.82), 400 (47.99), 800 (1:52.72), 1,500 (4:09.48), 110 hurdles (14.14), 300 hurdles (37.99), high jump (6-9½), pole vault (15-6), long jump (23-10¼), shot put (44-11), discus (135-11), javelin (155-9). The Duke-bound standout won 17 state individual state track titles in his career.
Bryan Peters (Rocky Mountain, Fort Collins, Colo., football, basketball, baseball): Was the Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year in both football and baseball and was all-league in basketball. In football, the 6-2, 180-pound senior threw for 2,536 yards and 31 touchdowns. In baseball, he went 21-0 in his career and never batted less than .436. He’s headed to Nebraska on a baseball scholarship. In basketball, he averaged 6.3 points and a team-high 2.3 steals per
Tyler Gaffney (Cathedral Catholic, San Diego, Calif., football, baseball): A brilliant senior football season was capped off with perhaps the best state-championship game performance in the country by a running back as the Stanford-bound star rushed 33 times for 329 yards and five touchdowns, caught a game-winning 51-yard touchdown pass, threw a halfback option pass that set up a fourth-quarter TD, blocked an extra point and clinched a 37-34 Div. II win over St. Mary’s (Stockton) with a 17-yard reception to run out the clock. He finished fifth in the country with 2,880 yards rushing and third with 56 touchdowns total, which tied him for fourth all-time in state history. Considered an even better pro prospect in baseball, Gaffney, an outfielder, hit .429 with six doubles, five homers and 38 RBIs for the San Diego Section champs.
Donovan Tate (Cartersville, Ga., football, baseball): The 6-foot-2, 184-pound center fielder was the third pick overall by the San Diego Padres hit .525 with 10 home runs with a slugging percentage of 1.000 and an on-base percentage of .788. He hit 32 homers in his high school career. If he doesn’t sign with the Padres, then he’ll play football and baseball at North Carolina after starring at multiple positions for the Hurricanes. He threw for 1,197 yards as a quarterback, also played receiver but was first-team all-state as a defensive back by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Mason Finley (Buena Vista, Colo., football, basketball, track and field): The 6-8, 330-pound specimen set a national discus record with a toss of 236 feet, 6 inches, bettering the old mark of 234-4 which had stood since 2001. He also has the state record in the shot put at 71-3. He’ll throw next school season at UCLA, where coach Art Venegas called Finley “a once-in-a-lifetime recruit.”