Legacy. Tradition. A who’s who of American sport. As the Gatorade Player of the Year program celebrates its 30th anniversary year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, fans can count many a household name on the roster of former award-winners. Over the past three decades, prep sports’ most esteemed honor boasts Super Bowl, World Series, NBA, WNBA, MLS Cup, NCAA and Olympic champions among more than 13,000 State Players of the Year and 270 National POYs across 12 sports. Let’s not forget the scores of program alumni who have gone on to capture league-MVP, All-Star and All-American recognition. Today, we’re catching up with 2012-13 Gatorade Missouri Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year Ezekiel Elliott.
His stock is unquestionably at an all-time high, but let’s face it—things have been looking up for Ezekiel Elliott for some time.
For a guy who is already a College Football Playoff National Championship offensive MVP and has been elevated to legendary status in some circles, it’s sobering to think this is just the start of a potentially long stretch of prosperity for the Ohio State sophomore running back. Then again, you can trace the origins of Elliott’s success back to his high school days, when he was selected as the Gatorade Missouri Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year just two years ago as a standout at St. Louis John Burroughs School.
That spring, Elliott’s now well-known explosive speed was on full display when he completed an undefeated track season for Burroughs in both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, capturing individual state titles in both of those events (breaking the tape in 13.97 and 39.01 seconds, respectively) as well as the 100- and 200-meter dashes (11.03 and 22.25).
He wasn’t too shabby on the gridiron in his prep days, either, as evidenced by his selection to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as a senior. Burroughs also received a heroic performance—albeit in a losing effort—out of Elliott in Missouri’s Class 3 state title game in 2012, when he collected 419 all-purpose yards, including 218 on the ground, with a pair of touchdowns on 18 carries in a 35-22 defeat at the hands of Maryville. That game ended with Elliott near tears on the sideline, a far cry from where he stood Monday, hoisting college football’s first playoff trophy after Ohio State upset Oregon, 42-20.
To be clear, Elliott’s postseason performance this season will most assuredly go down as one of the most memorable in recent history. Not only did he help lead the Buckeyes to victory in the inaugural college football playoffs, he also outshined Oregon quarterback and recently anointed Heisman Trophy winner (and 2010-11 Gatorade Hawaii Football Player of the Year) Marcus Mariota in the championship game. In all, he scampered for a whopping 696 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in three postseason games, leading Ohio State to wins over No. 13 Wisconsin in the Big Ten conference championship and heavily-favored opponents Alabama and Oregon in the playoffs.
If that’s not earning your Gatorade, then we don’t know what is.
To see the legacy for yourself, visit the Gatorade Player of the Year winner archive, where you can relive history and see which future stars won their first national recognition as high school athletes. To see the cream of the crop, visit the roster of Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year winners, showcasing Gatorade’s top male and female National Player of the Year honoree, selected annually from each POY class.