This is the fifth in a series honoring outstanding high school student-athletes during the 2014-15 school year.
Student-athletes were nominated by representatives of their schools in the categories of Scholar-Athlete, Most Inspirational, Leadership and Community Service. A panel of Tennessean editors and reporters selected the winners in those categories as well as Male and Female Athletes of the Year.
P.J. Settles had a busy four years at Ensworth.
The three-sport standout didn’t take a single season off during his high school career.
“I started off really just going through the motions, playing sports because they were fun,” Settles said. “Around junior year, I started working hard and realized I was good at them. I put in a lot of work; getting recognized shows that work paid off.”
He didn’t just participate, either. Settles excelled. His 2014-15 resume earned him the nod as The Tennessean’s Male High School Athlete of the Year.
He was a standout for Ensworth in football, basketball and track during the most recent school year.
In 12 seasons of high school competition, Settles helped lead the Tigers to six state championships — three in football and three in basketball. He was also a three-time state qualifier in track and field.
Off the field, Settles graduated with a 3.8 grade point average
“P.J. is just a remarkable kid,” said Ensworth athletics director Ricky Bowers, who coached Settles in football and basketball. “He’s responsible, attentive, dependable, courteous and kind — pretty much every parent’s dream — and not to mention, he’s athletic.”
Settles’ parents, Calvin and Sara, agree.
“It’s quite a task to try and play three sports and maintain an ‘A’ average,” Sara Settles said. “He’s extremely focused. He’s a quiet leader. We’re proud of all of our five children, and we’re so proud of P.J.”
Added Calvin: “He’s an exceptional kid all the way around. He’s such a hard worker. He’s very diligent in everything he does, and you just couldn’t ask for a better son.”
Last fall, Settles tallied more than 2,200 total yards and 17 touchdowns at quarterback, guiding Ensworth to a 10-2 record and a runner-up finish in Division II-AA.
“When he gets on the football field, it’s pretty amazing because it’s almost like an alter ego,” his mother said of her soft-spoken son. “It sounds kind of crazy, but it just seems like another flip switches on. There were so many times on the field I thought he should have panicked — everyone else was panicking — but he just seemed to be calm, keep his composure and guide the team.”
The 6-foot-tall, 180-pound guard’s basketball stats were a bit more modest, but Bowers said Settles was an integral part of the Tigers squad that advanced to the Division II-AA semifinals before falling to previously unbeaten Christian Brothers.
“He was our highest-percentage 3-point shooter and was one of our most consistent players,” Bowers said. “… He’s sort of the ultimate team player.”
Settles finished second in last month’s Division II decathlon, earning medals in three events, including third-place finishes in the long jump (22 feet, 7 1/2 inches) and triple jump (44-2 1/2).
He will attend Rhodes College in the fall, where he will play football and possibly compete in track and field.
“One of the parents once asked me, ‘Do you all make him play sports?'<TH>” Sara Settles said. “I said ‘No, it’s quite the opposite.’ We try to get him to take a break.”
Settles said he is “just one of those guys that thinks if you can play, you might as well play.”
It was more than just a physical undertaking, though. Playing three sports also requires a massive time investment— time that can’t be spent on schoolwork.
“I just balanced my time equally, and I think sports helped with that,” said Settles, who also played trombone in Ensworth’s jazz band and sang in the chorus. “I had a routine every day — come home from practice, get my work done — and I tried to not let one get in the way of the other.”
His father added, “It’s a lot of pressure on him. I know sometimes he’s up at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning just to finish his homework. Then he’d be right back up by 6 o’clock for school to make sure he’s there on time.
“He’s just automatic, automatically driven.”
P.J. SETTLES, ENSWORTH
• Sports: Football, basketball, track and field
• Quote: “A lot of guys in college say they wish they’d have played more in high school. I don’t know, I just like having the different options. I stopped playing baseball in eighth grade so I could run track. I wrestled in eighth grade, too. I just tried a little bit of everything to see what I really liked.”
• College plans: Signed with Rhodes College, where he plans to play football and possibly run track
• Family: Dad Calvin, mom Sara, brothers Rafael Antoine (33), Calvin II (23), sisters Bailey (20) and Ashley (13)
• Favorite sport: Football
• Favorite teams: Tennessee Titans, Miami Heat
• Favorite athletes: Dwyane Wade, Russell Wilson
• Best high school memories: “Every state championship; each one. The most memorable one was probably the 2013 (football championship), and I didn’t actually even play in that game. I was hurt. We were down two scores in the fourth quarter, and we got three interceptions at the end and ended up winning. That was very exciting.”
• Favorite food: “ My mama’s macaroni and cheese or cornbread.”
• Favorite music: “I listen to everything ranging from J. Cole and Lil Wayne to Jimmy Cleveland (my uncle) and Duke Ellington to Snarky Puppy, Kirk Franklin and Hillsong. Anything musical.”
• Summer plans: “Continue to get my body ready for college football and spend as much time at the pool with my friends and family.”