Scholar athlete: Matthew Hawkins, Gulf Breeze High School
In its second season under Bobby Clayton, the Gulf Breeze program is clearly trending up as a trendy choice for a lot of new faces joining in, but Clayton hopes Matthew Hawkins is one senior who will be a driving force.
Clayton has 100 players in his program this year, but one upperclassman sticks out.
"He's the ultimate team player," Clayton said. "In the locker room, in the weight room, on the field."
It's kind of ironic because Matthew spent most of the last year sitting on the bench.
"First game of the season, he got injured and had a season ending injury," Clayton said.
Matthew, who plays offensive tackle, broke his fibula during the fourth quarter.
Surgery began a long road to recovery, but months of rehab and training paid off.
"It was rough, but it also showed me a lot about my character," Matthew said. "Coming from that to being team captain, it feels really good because being off the field, I learned that it's not so much how much you play. It's how much you can lead."
Now he's in top shape, ready to get back on the field.
Matthew attributes his unyielding determination on and off the field to his parents and his family's military background.
"They've always taught me to lead others and I like to lead by inspiration on the field," he said.
Pressure to perform isn't just on the field. For the past few years, the football team has been named Class 6A Academic Team Champions, which means their GPA's are the highest in the state.
Matthew's unweighted 3.9 GPA puts him among the top scholars on the team.
The math wiz often takes what he learns in class and applies it to his plays.
"You have to find the quickest route to the person you're trying to block. It's really important to know what they're going to do," Matthew explained.
It's that type of attitude that Clayton wishes he could multiply.
"He's the kind of guy you just want every year, year in and year out. To have another Matthew Hawkins type of player where they're just going to put the work in," Clayton said. "They're not going to miss anything, they're going to be there when you need them there and when it's gut check time, they're going to the guys you rely on."