For Matthew Stafford—quarterback of the Detroit Lions, former No. 1 overall draft pick and "BMOC" at the University of Georgia—the spotlight of an event like the Gatorade Athlete of the Year Award ceremony is practically old hat.
But back in 2006, when he was nominated as the Gatorade Texas Football Player of the Year, he played the role of the wide-eyed high schooler himself.
Having come full circle as a presenter at this year's ceremony in Hollywood, Stafford has a unique point of view on the honor, and the challenge bestowed on the teenaged superstars honored by Gatorade and ESPN RISE.
After the awards had been handed out on Tuesday, Bleacher Report's Jack Harver had a chance to talk with him about that perspective—and to get in a few questions edgewise about the ongoing NFL lockout and Stafford's offseason workouts.
Jack Harver: You were Gatorade's state winner for Texas for football in 2006, along with a bunch of other awards you received. How did that attention feel as a high schooler?
Matthew Stafford: It was great, and I think it's even better for these kids.
They get invited here and to the ESPYs, it's all in Los Angeles, Gatorade puts on an awesome event. This award means so much to these kids, and a lot to the guys presenting it, too.
It's not only about how good you are in football, baseball, basketball or whatever your sport is, it's how good you are in the classroom and what you've done for your community. That's what makes it unique and makes it a great award.
JH: It's a huge experience for them—bright lights, big brands.
MS: Yeah, I think they have a great time with it. They get to go meet some actors at the ESPYs and see a bunch of athletes they look up to.
It's fun for us to get to know them early on and watch their careers blossom and grow. I still remember, from presenting a couple of years ago, seeing some of [the high schoolers] then and following their progress to now.
JH: This year's winner, Dylan Bundy, swung in the opposite direction from your decision to commit to football over baseball back in high school. Was there any temptation for you back then to go with baseball, too, instead of football?
MS: Yeah, I thought about it for a while.
I just couldn't get away from the adrenaline and the fun of football. It's such a team sport. Being a quarterback and getting to touch the ball every play is a lot of fun.
Hanging out there in the outfield or at shortstop, I played behind [current Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher] Clayton Kershaw and nobody ever touched him. I didn't get a lot of ground balls or fly balls.
JH: Judging from the early returns, between your career at Georgia and getting drafted No. 1 overall by the Detroit Lions, I'd say things have worked out pretty well for you.
MS: Absolutely. It's a dream come true, and hopefully there will be even better things to come.
JH: Another nominee, Justin Worley, will be working with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute tomorrow. They'll be putting him in the Bod Pod and taking him through some high-tech reflex tests. Are you familiar with those tests?
MS: Yeah, I went through the GSSI testing a few years ago at the Super Bowl.
JH: Do the Lions have anything like that for you guys?
MS: No, Gatorade's unique to this. It's something that they use to better their product and it's worked for them, coming up with the G Series line of performance products.
JH: Is there anything you have been missing from Detroit's team facility?
MS: Pads and a helmet. I'd rather be playing right now.
You can only throw so many routes to your receivers on air with nobody guarding them. You want some competition—that's what you play football for. We're looking forward to that starting.
JH: Have you gotten any reps in with the guys in front of you, your offensive linemen?
MS: Yeah, they came out to our minicamps the last couple of weeks. It's been great.
Those guys all look like they're in great shape. Everybody's been professional about doing what they're supposed to be doing in the offseason and getting ready to go.
JH: Last question: What's your least favorite piece of equipment, something you haven't missed at all from the facility?
MS: [laughs] Probably the cold tub. I'm not a big fan, but it's necessary during camp. I'll have mixed feelings about jumping back in.
JH: Good luck with that, and with getting back into football this year.