SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – For the 38th year, Gatorade is honoring the nation’s best high school football players with the Gatorade Massachusetts Football Player of the Year award.

Each year, the Gatorade Player of the Year program honors one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that recognize 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. One National Player of the Year is also given in each of these sports. The Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee oversees the selection process and uses sources including coaches, scouts, the media, and others to help assess and choose the state winners in each sport.

Springfield Central High School’s William Watson is the first Gatorade Massachusetts Football Player of the Year. According to a news release, “being a Gatorade Player of the Year means paying it forward for the next generation.”

Watson is recognized as Massachusetts’ best high school football player not just for his athletic excellence, but also for his academic excellence and exemplary character. Watson said in a tweet, “blessed to be named Gatorade Player of the Year in Massachusetts. Thank you to everyone that has been a part of the process.”

Watson becomes part of an elite alumni association of state award-winners across 12 sports, including Trevor Lawrence (2018-19 & 2016-17, Cartersville High School, Ga.), Matthew Stafford (2005-06, Highland Park High School, Texas), and Emmitt Smith (1986-87, Escambia High School, Fla.).

As a dual-threat signal caller, the 6-foot, the 182-pound senior quarterback led the Golden Eagles (10-2) to a Division I state championship. Recruited as a three-star, Watson completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,338 yards and 17 touchdowns, while rushing for 928 yards and 22 touchdowns. As part of his selection, he was also named to the roster of the 2023 Army All-American Bowl.

Watson volunteers with Springfield’s ‘Vax The Field’ initiative to help city residents get their Covid-19 vaccination and with the Springfield Central High School Youth Football program as a coach. “Pop Watson is an absolute nightmare to defend,” said Minnechaug High School head coach Will Nickerson. “He’s the ultimate competitor and leader. He has the combination of arm strength, breakaway speed, power, agility, and vision that is unmatched in Massachusetts at the quarterback position.”

Watson has kept up an academic GPA of 3.62. He had already verbally agreed to play football this fall on scholarship at Virginia Tech at the time of his selection.

A grant is given to every Player of the Year to give to one of Gatorade’s social impact partners. Over $3.5 million has been raised in Gatorade Player of the Year grants for more than 1,300 organizations.