Marietta's Arik Gilbert named Gatorade National Football Player of the Year
It's been a whirlwind of a week for Marietta's Arik Gilbert.
First, the Blue Devils won their first state championship win since 1967. Then came an invitation to play in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series in Las Vegas the next weekend. Now, he has earned a national recognition shared by the likes of Peyton Manning, Abby Wambach, Karl-Anthony Towns and Derek Jeter.
And on top of all that? Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was the one to surprise Gilbert and present him with the trophy in the Marietta High weight room.
And Gilbert was genuinely surprised; he even said he was "a little bit star-struck, not going to lie."
"When I first walked in, I was like, 'Why is Matt Ryan about to shake my hand?' But no, it was crazy," Gilbert laughed. "I don't know what I thought I was walking in the weight room for. This is unreal."
Gilbert is listed at 6-foot-5, 255-pounds, which puts him just an inch taller and 35 pounds heavier than the 11-year NFL veteran.
"I've got to start eating better and taking care of my body because I'd like to play with him in Atlanta in a few years. That'd be a lot of fun," Ryan said. "He's got the perfect build to play in this league, and he looks like he could kind of do it already. He's big and strong. He'd be a great addition to our arsenal in the future."
Gilbert, who's committed to LSU, was a two-time All-State honoree and Region 3 Offensive Player of the Year last season, and he will play in the 2020 All-American Bowl.
Past Gatorade National Football Players of the Year have combined for six NFL MVP awards, 30 Pro Bowl appearances, and six became NFL first-round draft picks.
But this award was just about his off-field accomplishments as those on the football field.
According to Gatorade, Gilbert was chosen because he "founded a campus-wide initiative called 'Whisper,' which urges students to have device-free conversations and supports diversity and inclusion efforts."
Gilbert has also volunteered with the East Atlanta Kids Club, Habitat for Humanity, March of Dimes, Marietta elementary schools and the Marietta Youth Football program. According to Gatorade, he's also posted a 3.14 GPA.