In its 34th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, recently announced Cornelius Johnson as its 2018-19 Gatorade Connecticut Football Player 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 field, distinguishes Johnson as Connecticut’s best high school football player. Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Football Player of the Year award to be announced later in December, Johnson joins an elite alumni association of state award-winners in 12 sports, including Emmitt Smith (1986-87, Escambia High School, Fla.), Matthew Stafford (2005-06 Highland Park HS, Texas) and Christian McCaffrey (2012-13, 2013-14, Valor Christian High School, Colo.).
The 6-foot-3, 198-pound senior wide receiver caught 50 passes for 826 yards and 12 touchdowns this past season, leading the Bruins (8-2) to the NEPSAC Class ‘A’ Mike Silipo Championship Bowl Game. Selected to play in January’s All-American Bowl, Johnson also ran for a score and returned a 99-yard kickoff for a touchdown this past season. A two-time All-New England honoree, he concluded his prep football career with 2,167 receiving yards and 33 touchdown receptions.
In the community, Johnson volunteered locally as a board member with Jack and Jill of America, which focuses on developing leadership and community service among African American youth.
Johnson has maintained a B average in the classroom and represents one of the state’s top academic candidates in meeting the Gatorade award’s broad criteria. He remains undecided upon a collegiate destination.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. From the 12 national winners, one male and one female athlete are each named Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year. In all, 607 athletes are honored each year.
Johnson joins recent Gatorade Connecticut Football Players of the Year Spencer Lockwood (2017-18, Killingly High School), Ben Mason (2016-17, Newtown High School), Mark Evanchick (2015-16, Darien High School), Zach Allen (2014-15, New Canaan High School), and Dario Highsmith (2013-14, Middletown High School) among the state’s list of former award winners.
As a part of Gatorade’s cause marketing platform “Play it Forward,” Johnson has the opportunity to award a $1,000 grant to a local or national youth sports organization of his choosing. He is also eligible to submit an essay to win one of twelve $10,000 spotlight grants for the organization of choice, which will be announced throughout the year.
Since the program’s inception in 1985, Gatorade Player of the Year award recipients have won hundreds of professional and college championships, and many have also turned into pillars in their communities, becoming coaches, business owners and educators.
To learn more about the Gatorade Player of the Year program, check out past winners or to nominate student-athletes, visit www.Gatorade.com/POY