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Northwestern standout Worley looking to pick up big award

Former Northwestern High quarterback Justin Worley is going to Hollywood.

Worley, a freshman at Tennessee competing for playing time again incumbent Tyler Bray and back-up Matt Simms, will fly to Hollywood next week as one of the finalists for Gatorade National Athlete of the Year. The awards ceremony, which precedes ESPN's ESPY Awards, can be viewed online at at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

He stayed in Knoxville, Tenn., this summer to attend school and prepare for the upcoming season. Worley was not available for comment Thursday afternoon because of workouts, but former Trojans coach Jimmy Wallace, who retired this year, praised his former signal caller.

"It's absolutely phenomenal that Justin has the opportunity to win this award, but if anyone ever deserved it then he'd be a great choice,'' Wallace said. "We had a good run at Northwestern with him at quarterback, but Justin meant more than that.

"He was a good leader and was well-liked by his teammates. He's one of the best young men I've ever known and has what it takes to succeed. I'm headed to Gatlinburg (Tenn.) in the morning for a weekend vacation. I'm gonna slide over to Knoxville to see Justin."

After Worley led Northwestern to a 15-0 record and the Class AAAA Division II state championship in 2010, awards and honors began rolling in. He was named Gatorade's South Carolina Football Player of the Year and was later named by Gatorade as its National Football Player of the Year.

The Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year award is not just for performance on the field. It will be selected by a panel of nationwide sports experts using the following criteria:

Individual résumé for 2010-11.

Athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character.

Impact on team success.

Breadth of accomplishment demonstrated to this point in his or her career.

Worley had a huge impact on his team. He was a three-year starter and led the Trojans to the state championship games all three seasons.

This past season, Worley shattered South Carolina's passing records for a season and career, and climbed into the National High School Association's record book. The 6-feet-4, 200-pounder passed for 5,315 yards and 64 touchdowns, completing 429 of his 590 attempts (72.7 percent) in the fall.

Worley's career numbers were 13,385 yards passing and 157 touchdowns. He had a 4.07 GPA his senior year.

In its 26th year of honoring the nation's elite high school athletes, Gatorade will present the ninth annual awards to the nation's best overall male and female high school athlete. Gatorade has recognized National Players of the Year in football, volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track and field.

The Player of the Year award has become the most prestigious high school athletic award in the nation. Since 1985, it has honored more than 11,000 state and 234 national winners in a variety of sports. Many past national winners have gone on to become some of today's top professional athletes, including Emmitt Smith, Peyton Manning, Lisa Leslie, Derek Jeter, Candace Parker, Kerri Walsh and Joe Mauer.