A dedicated ESPNHS POY team managed the Gatorade State Football Player of the Year selection process, resulting in this winner based on the awards program's three pillars: athletic production and impact in the 2011 season, high academic achievement and exemplary personal character. For his 50 fellow Gatorade State Football Player of the Year winners, click here.
THE WINNER: Philip Nelson
THE BASICS: Anatomy of a POY
School: Mankato West (Mankato, Minn.)
Weight: 216 pounds
THE PILLARS: Gatorade criteria
Athletic achievement: Nelson passed for 2,559 yards and 35 touchdowns, completing 159-of-238 passes while throwing just four interceptions this past season, leading the Scarlets (11-1) to the Class 4A semifinals. A three-time First Team All-Conference selection, he ranks second in state history for both career completions (448) and touchdown passes (92).
Academic excellence: Nelson has maintained a 3.49 GPA in the classroom.
Exemplary character: A devoted member of his church community, Nelson has volunteered locally on behalf of an area assisted living facility.
THE PRAISE: Andy Rostberg, head coach of rival Hutchinson (Minn.)
“Philip Nelson is hands down the greatest high school football player I’ve ever seen. I’ve been coaching high school football for 25 years and have had kids who have made it to the NFL and coached against kids who have made it to the NFL. Nelson is the best of them all.”
THE FUTURE: Collegiate destination
Nelson has verbally committed to play football on an athletic scholarship at the University of Minnesota beginning in the fall of 2012.