Matt Ryan surprises Arik Gilbert as Gatorade National Player of the Year

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan surprises LSU Tigers commit/Marietta Blue Devils tight end Arik Gilbert as the Gatorade National Player of the Year.

It’s not every day that a high school athlete is up for such an outstanding honor as Gatorade Player of the Year. Marietta Blue Devils tight end Arik Gilbert thought he was up for Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Georgia this year, but what happened on what was supposed to be a normal Tuesday afternoon in a suburban Atlanta high school was anything but that.

Gilbert, who told FanSided‘s Mark Carman that his mom said he was only going to be honored for the state award, was absolutely shocked to find Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan right there in Marietta High School to present him with the Gatorade National Player of the Year award.

“It was crazy,” said Gilbert. “It was an unbelievable experience, I wasn’t expecting that at all…Yeah, I had no idea it was going to be the national award. My mom just told me it was going to be the state award and was just going to go in there with a couple of teammates…It took me a minute to realize because you figured [Ryan would] be in the weight room.”

Growing up a few minutes northwest of Atlanta, Gilbert used to idolize Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez and says his favorite player in the NFL today is Falcons’ All-Pro wide receiver, Julio Jones. Like Gonzalez, both Jones and Ryan are bound for Canton one day. Though the NFL is his big dream, Gilbert knows he has to first get ready for life in the SEC as an LSU commit.


“My granddad always used to tell me that I had a lot of potential, but potential is just potential and you have to act on it,” said Gilbert. “So I just always want to keep that in my head. Whatever you want in life, you have to work for it. I know that and I’m just going to keep working so that I can hopefully get [to the NFL] one day.”

But before any of that even happens, Gilbert must prepare to join the LSU Tigers in 2020. Gilbert, who is the No. 1 tight end in the country, the No. 2 player from the state of Georgia and the No. 9 player nationally, according to 247 Sports, had a tough decision to pick LSU over the in-state Georgia Bulldogs in his recruitment, but this is a decision he feels really good about.

“I just thought that LSU was the best fit for me,” said Gilbert. “The main factor for me was how I was going to be used offensively and the culture of the school, just knowing that I’ll feel comfortable there. And obviously, what they’re doing on offense is a whole other level.”

When you’re the best tight end in the country, you can pretty much pick whatever school you would like to attend. Going with LSU bodes very well for Gilbert, as we’ve all seen first-hand what the offense looks like with Joe Brady as the passing game coordinator. Plus, you know everybody wants to play for a head coach like Ed Orgeron. Gilbert will be heading to Baton Rouge in 2020.

Arik Gilbert spoke with FanSided as the 2019-20 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year.

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