National POY Watch: Football contenders

Now that the Gatorade State Football Players of the Year have been announced, the focus turns to Gatorade National Football Player of the Year. These two elite performers are among the 51 winners making a bid to be honored as the best of the best. The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. There’s plenty more work to be done, but here are two top candidates who could someday call themselves a National POY.

Patton Robinette

Senior quarterback, Maryville (Tenn.)

2011 Team record: 14-0 (Class 6A)

2011 Team standing: Class 6A state final vs. Whitehaven (Memphis, Tenn.) on Dec. 3; No. 17 on ESPNHS FAB 50

2011 COMP-ATT (%)-YDs: 108-150 (72.0)-1,509

2011 TDs-INTs: 21-7

2011 Carries-YDs (AVG.)-TDs: 82-860 (10.5)-16

Academics: A average

Collegiate destination: University of North Carolina (verbal)

How he’s played himself into the National POY conversation: In a 42-14 Class 6A state semifinal win over Riverdale (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), Robinette completed 8-of-12 passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns in addition to rushing for 94 yards and a TD on 12 carries. Averages 10.1 yards per attempt in leading an offense that scores 38.6 points per game. Owns a 193.4 NCAA Pass Efficiency Rating. No. 32 ranked QB in Class of 2012 as rated by ESPNU. 2011 Tennessee Mr. Football finalist. 2011 Elite 11 quarterback camp participant. 2010 All-State selection. 2010 Dream Team selection as named by the Tennessean.

Max Browne

Junior quarterback, Skyline (Sammamish, Wash.)

2011 Team record: 10-3 (Class 4A)

2011 Team standing: Class 4A state final vs. Skyview (Vancouver, Wash.) on Dec. 3

2011 COMP-ATT (%)-YDs: 273-389 (70.2)- 3,813

2011 TDs-INTs: 43-5

2011 Carries-YDs (AVG.)-TDs: 24-185 (7.7)-2

Academics: A-minus average

Collegiate destination: Undecided

How he’s played himself into the National POY conversation: In a 26-21 Class 4A state semifinal victory against Woodinville (Wash.), completed 22-of-31 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns Averages 9.8 yards per attempt in leading an offense that scores 42.3 points per game. Owns a 186.4 NCAA Pass Efficiency Rating. Class of 2013 ESPNU 150 Watch List selection. Named QB MVP at Washington's 2011 Nike Football Training Camp. 2010 First Team All-State selection.

The Gatorade National Football Player of the Year race has just begun. Here are some other state winners who’ve also entered the National POY conversation in this 2011 campaign.

Dorial Green-Beckham: Hillcrest (Springfield, Mo.) senior wide receiver

Casey Cochran: Masuk (Monroe, Conn.) senior quarterback

Johnathan Gray: Aledo (Texas) senior running back

Gunner Kiel: Columbus East (Columbus, Ind.) senior quarterback

Zach Kline: San Ramon Valley (Danville, Calif.) senior quarterback

William Likely: Glades Central (Belle Glade, Fla.) junior cornerback/wide receiver

Keith Marshall: Millbrook (Raleigh, N.C.) senior running back

Maty Mauk: Kenton (Ohio) senior quarterback

Davonte Neal: Chaparral (Paradise Valley, Ariz.) senior wide receiver/defensive back

Noah Spence: Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg, Pa.) senior defensive end/tight end

Jameis Winston: Hueytown (Ala.) senior quarterback/punter

Think we're missing a deserving Gatorade State or National Player of the Year candidate? Let us know via e-mail at ESPNHS_GPOY@ESPN.com or Twitter @ESPNHS_Awards.

A dedicated POY team at ESPNHS manages the Gatorade Player of the Year program selection process and oversees all research, reporting, comparative analysis and criteria-compliance on the award program’s behalf.

The Gatorade Player of the Year Program honors athletes who meet comprehensive and exacting criteria in high school sports. Candidates are judged on athletic production and impact in the current season. Contenders also must demonstrate high academic achievement and exemplary personal character, including volunteerism, sportsmanship and community leadership. Senior status has no bearing on a candidate’s merit and selections are made independent of ESPNHS recruit rankings.