December 7, 2011

Drake named Gatorade Player of the Year

Before the season, questions surrounded Hillgrove High School (Powder Springs, Ga.) running back Kenyan Drake, who committed to the University of Alabama in February.

At 195 pounds, could he be a feature back at the next level?

Would the UA coaching staff move him to wide receiver when he got to Tuscaloosa?

Why was he ranked only a three-star on most recruiting services?

Drake proved all of his doubters wrong when he rushed for 1,610 yards and 17 touchdowns on just 173 carries during his senior year. He also had 315 yards and five touchdowns receiving and returned two kicks for scores to lead the Hawks to an undefeated regular season.

His Hillgrove team came up short in the playoffs, but Drake is now a candidate for Mr. Football in Georgia, and he was even surprised when he found out he won Georgia's Gatorade Player of the Year award last week.

"That was a very big deal because I wasn't expecting to win that at all," Drake said. "It was definitely a humbling experience.

"Georgia is the hotbed of college recruits. There's a large group of players around the county, let alone the state, so knowing that I was selected out of everybody else in the whole entire state makes the whole experience that much better."

What motivated Drake, who has now moved into the Rivals250 rankings?

According to him, it was the "talking heads" who didn't believe how good he was. It was the critics who thought that he was too small and too lean to be an every-down running back, especially at Alabama.

"I came in with a little chip on my shoulder," Drake said. "Coming into the season I had already committed to Alabama, but I guess there was a big question mark on what type of player I was or how I'd be able to handle the everyday bang of being a running back.

"It didn't make me feel good that people thought that I'd be better-suited as a wide receiver. Not to say that I won't be, but Alabama is recruiting me as a running back, and that's the position I want to play. I'm not going to let anybody else dictate what I'm going to do."

Drake finished the season at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, but he says he wants to get over 200 pounds before he enrolls at Alabama over the summer and is already taking the necessary steps to accomplish that goal.

"I plan on getting started on the process right now," Drake said. "I'm not running track this year because of the fact that I need to put on more weight this year. That's a necessity to play any kind of big-time role at running back. I'm definitely taking that serious."

Even though his senior season is finished, Drake still has some football left to play this year. The newly minted Rivals.com four-star will participate in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Dallas on Dec. 31.

"I'm very excited," Drake said. "I get the opportunity to travel to Dallas and play with players from across the country, actually in a game. I experienced seven-on-seven and the noncontact form of playing against top competition earlier this summer, but now I get to showcase it in physical contact."

The Crimson Tide commitment plans to take his official visit to Alabama in January.

Reach Greg Ostendorf at greg@tidesports.com.

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