Justin Worley's mom didn't want him to play football because she was afraid he'd get hurt.
But Angela Worley relented when Justin was in fifth grade, figuring he'd compete for one year and get it out of his system.
She was wrong.
Worley, Northwestern's starting quarterback the last three seasons, on Thursday became South Carolina's first Gatorade National Player of the Year. The award followed a high school career in which Worley set a handful of state career records, led Northwestern's Trojans to the Class AAAA Division II state championship game three straight years, and to the state title this season.
"I never would have dreamt this was how it would turn out," Angela Worley said after an afternoon pep rally at the school, where her son received his latest - and maybe biggest - award. "We were very surprised.
"In the beginning, I was nervous when he took the field. Now, it's exciting to watch him play."
Worley, verbally committed to play for the University of Tennessee next year, surely provided a lot of excitement on the field. During his career at Northwestern, he passed for 13,385 yards and 157 touchdowns.
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound senior led the Trojans to a 15-0 record this season, the first perfect mark in football for the school. He was one of the team captains to present the state championship trophy from the 42-10 victory against Greenwood on Dec. 3 to the school on Thursday.
Worley's 2010 stats: 5,315 passing yards, a 72.7 percent completion average and a state-record 64 touchdowns.
"Let me put this into perspective," said Heather Stotts, senior marketing manager for Gatorade. "There are 1.1 million boys playing high school football in United States.
"Today we named Justin Worley as No. 1."
Justin Worley sat humbled, watching a gym full of classmates, teammates and family chant "Worley! Worley!" while giving him one of the longest standing ovations Stotts had ever seen in presenting this award.
"I was surprised when Coach (Jimmy) Wallace said I won the S.C. (Gatorade) Player of the Year, especially since Jadeveon Clowney, the No.1 recruit in the country, is right down the road" at South Pointe High, Worley said. "It feels good. Out of all the deserving players in the country; I'm shocked.
"I'm really, really happy right now."
Wallace, full of energy and tears during the ceremony, called Worley's award "incomprehensible."
"He's an incredible young man, and obviously a good football player," Wallace said. "I don't think he could have won this award without character, integrity and academics. He's the ultimate team player."
Senior offensive lineman John Joas said it feels good to have played alongside a National Player of the Year.
"Even if I go on to play at the next level, I'll probably never play with such a good athlete as Worley," Joas said. "He makes our job a lot easier. If we give him the time, we knew he'd find a guy to get the ball to.
"You'd think someone with that kind of talent would be stuck-up, but he's not. He's the most down-to-earth guy you'll meet."
Worley's father was almost at a loss for words to describe his son's achievements.
"We're proud of how he handles himself on and off the field," Peyton Worley said. "I admire him. Football is a tough sport to play. It takes a lot of dedication and grit."
Justin Worley is the kind of guy who accepts an award and turns around and pats someone else on the back, Northwestern Athletic Director Bill Warren said.
"I'm often asked about Worley as a football player,'' Warren said. "To try to describe him as player is incredible. He's a super, incredible football player.
"But he's a better person."
During the ceremony all Worley wanted to say was "thank you" to his family, teammates and the Northwestern community for their support. He will graduate from Northwestern in January and enroll at Tennessee in the spring.
"I'm excited about Tennessee," he said. "I'm hopefully going to have a chance to compete for a spot right away. I'm going to miss the coaches, players and the bonds with the players and Coach Wallace the most."
Since 1985, the Gatorade Player of the Year award has recognized football players not only for outstanding athletic excellence, but high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character on and off the field.
The program annually recognizes one winner in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia 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 and field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport.
The selection process is administered by ESPN RISE - the sports giant's website dedicated to high school athletics - and the Gatorade high school sports leadership team. They work with top sport-specific experts and an advisory board of veteran high school sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Worley is now a finalist for the Gatorade Male Athlete of the Year to be presented in Los Angeles prior to the ESPY awards.
The Worley file
Total passing yards: 13,385
Grade-point average: 4.07
College: University of Tennessee, verbal commitment
threw more than 50 touchdowns in two of the last three seasons.
averaged a score once every 9.6 times he touched the ball in 2010.
is the state's single-season leader in touchdown passes this season.
is a 2010 Shrine Bowl selection.
is a 2010 South Carolina Mr. Football finalist.
Other activities: Northwestern Beta Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, volunteer with Feed the Hungry and Cheer for Children charities.