Each season, Gatorade recognizes one student-athlete from each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. who embodies its Player of the Year program’s three pillars: athletic production, academic achievement and exemplary character.
Each week during its Gatorade State Player of the Year selection process, USA Today surfaces one candidate who meets those criteria and deserves recognition as a serious Gatorade State Player of the Year contender.
Name: Matt James
School: Coeur d’Alene High (Coeur d’Alene, ID)
Athletic Production: Tipping the scales at 220 pounds is wonderful for a high school wrestler, but totally unacceptable for a college offensive lineman. James took fifth in the 220-pound class at the 2012 Idaho state wrestling championships, but he has since packed on 50 pounds, grown to 6-foot-5 and become a major college recruit for what’s been the most successful football team in Idaho throughout his four-year high school career. A three-year starter at both offensive and defensive tackle, James has been a major cog for a team that won Class 5A titles in 2010 and 2011, and lost in the championship game in 2012. This season, the Vikings are just 4-3, but two of those losses were to powerhouses from Washington state, and the third was by three points to unbeaten, top-ranked Highland. James (now officially a heavyweight wrestler, taking third in the state in 2013) has helped open holes for an offense averaging 42.6 points and 422 yards per game.
Academic Achievement: James has maintained an A average and will enter the University of Washington’s highly regarded biomedical program next year.
Exemplary Character: A volunteer firefighter during the summer months, James also mentors young wrestlers and has created a football linemen calendar to benefit local charities.