Max Browne earns Gatorade National Football Player of the Year Award

December 25, 2012

By Larry Stone

Skyline High School football quarterback Max Browne, surrounded by his teammates, was named Gatorade National Football Player of the Year on Dec. 18. By Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times

At midmorning Dec. 18, Skyline High School quarterback Max Browne was called out of class by his football coach, Mat Taylor, on the pretense that he was needed at an emergency captain’s meeting.

Browne fell for it hook, line and sinker. What awaited him in the upstairs classroom stunned him — his parents, a gaggle of cameras, a crowd of friends and, emerging from a hidden spot, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

Wilson had been summoned to present Browne with the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year Award, one of the most prestigious honors in high school athletics. They had managed to keep it secret from Browne, who later was formally presented the Gatorade trophy during a ceremony in the school’s theater packed with classmates.

“I had no idea,” Browne said afterward of the ruse. “Totally surprised. It was awesome.”

Wilson first met Browne last summer at a Nike camp in Beaverton, Ore., and the two bonded. Wilson eagerly accepted the opportunity to come to the Sammamish school’s campus on the Seahawks’ day off before their showdown with the 49ers.

“He’s a tremendous person, first of all,” Wilson said. “He has a great attitude, great personality, and he’s worked so hard. Gatorade found the best person in the country.”

The statistics certainly bear that out. Browne finished his career as the state leader in passing yards (12,951) and was third all-time in touchdowns (146) while leading Skyline to two straight Class 4A state titles. As a senior, he threw for 4,526 yards and 49 touchdowns with just five interceptions in 377 attempts (277 completions).

But the Gatorade honor also recognizes academics and community service. Browne maintains a 3.5 grade point average at Skyline, and volunteers locally on behalf of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and Generation Joy.

“His stats are unbelievable. But if you had a statistic for leadership, he would win this award, too,” Taylor said. “I’ve never been around a greater leader on our football team, but more importantly, in the classroom, too.”

Dec. 18 was also Browne’s final day in a Skyline classroom. He is graduating early so he can enroll at USC for the winter semester. He begins classes Jan. 14 and will participate in spring football for the Trojans in March as he competes to succeed Matt Barkley at quarterback.

“It’s crazy,” Browne said. “It hasn’t really hit me. I always thought I’d stay in high school. I’ve loved it. It’s been a fun 3 1/2 years, on and off the field. It will probably hit me when I’m down at USC and see all my friends posting stuff about high school.”

Browne, regarded as the nation’s top quarterback recruit, said the opportunity to get a jump-start on his college career swayed him to accelerate his enrollment at USC.

“You notice a lot of quarterbacks doing that now,” he said. “It just helps getting to know the offense, getting to know the college atmosphere. That extra six months is just critical.”

Browne became just the second player from Washington to win the Gatorade national award for football, following Brock Huard, of Puyallup High School, in 1994-95. The honor includes a trip to Hollywood for Browne and his parents Cheryl and Mike, in July, with Gatorade winners in other sports for a banquet to announce one overall athlete of the year. He’ll also get to walk the red carpet at the ESPY awards, Gatorade marketing executive Nancy Laroche said.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Browne towered above Wilson as they stood on the stage. The Seahawks quarterback promised to follow Browne’s career, and Browne said he hoped to be able to pick Wilson’s brain for advice.

“He has so many great qualities,” Wilson said. “He just draws a room. He just knows how to light up a room.”

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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