CHICAGO— In its 30th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, has announced Josh Ladowski of Lake Norman High School as its 2014 Gatorade North Carolina Football Athlete of the Year.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the track, distinguishes Ladowski as North Carolina’s best high school football player.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior quarterback led the Wildcats to a 13-2 record and a berth in the NCHSAA Class 4AA state semifinals, where they lost to defending champion Mallard Creek. Ladowski threw for 3,368 yards and 39 touchdowns on 196-of-321 passing (61 percent) through 14 games. A returning First Team All-State selection as named by the Associated Press, Ladowski also rushed for 1,887 yards and 32 touchdowns on 285 carries entering the semifinals. With as many as two games to play, he trailed two-time Gatorade North Carolina Football Player of the Year Chris Leak’s 12-year-old North Carolina High School Athletic Association state record for total offense in a single season by 239 yards.
Also a baseball standout, Ladowski has maintained a 3.84 weighted GPA in the classroom.
In addition to volunteering as a youth football instructor, he has donated his time on behalf of his church, as a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and as part of a care package campaign benefitting U.S. troops. He has also mentored with a special needs student at Lake Norman on a daily basis.
"I have coached against Josh Ladowski for two years, and in my 30 years of coaching, I have honestly never seen a high school player do what this guy can do,” said Nick Bazzle, head football coach at Alexander Central.
The Gatorade Player of the Year award was established in 1985 to recognize and celebrate the nation's most outstanding high school talents for their athletic achievement, academic excellence and exemplary character. Now in its third decade, the Gatorade Player of the Year award has become one of the most prestigious accolades in high school sports.
USA TODAY High School Sports, in partnership with The Gatorade Company, administers the selection process for Gatorade State and National Player of the Year awards. All final selection decisions are the result of a collaborative effort between USA TODAY High School Sports and The Gatorade Company.