Count Jacob Park among the people who assumed Northwestern quarterback Mason Rudolph was going to be handed some more hardware on Saturday.
The Stratford quarterback believed Rudolph – who led the Trojans to the Class AAAA, Division II title a week ago by carving up Stratford’s defense – would be named the 2013 South Carolina Mr. Football. Instead, it was Park, the Knights senior and a University of Georgia commitment.
“I watched it first-hand,” Park said of the lopsided loss in Columbia last week. “It was a phenomenal performance he put on. I didn’t really understand how good they were, how good their receivers were and how he could manage a game like that. He’s got good wide receivers, but at the same time, you have to have a quarterback who can get it to them. He did a phenomenal job and led them to that state championship.”
Park and Rudolph were up for the award, presented at halftime of the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl North Vs. South all-star game, along with Latta lineman Stanley, Daniel running back Jae’lon Oglesby and Spring Valley linebacker Christian Miller. Park is the eighth quarterback to be named Mr. Football, which has been awarded since the 1995 season.
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He will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January after throwing for 3,665 yards and 33 touchdowns, including four in Stratford’s Class AAAA Division II state championship loss to Northwestern. After piling up offers from nearly every major college program in the Southeast, he verbally committed to Georgia in June.
Maybe the biggest reason Park didn’t win the state title was Rudolph.
Rudolph, an Oklahoma State commitment, threw a state-record eight touchdown passes in the Trojans’ 62-35 victory. Rudolph capped off his prolific career with a 3,889-yard, 56-touchdown senior year.
Miller, an Alabama commitment, set the school record in sacks (24) while also piling up 188 total tackles. He will play in the Under Armour All-American game in January, and he is ranked as the top outside linebacker in the country by ESPN.
Stanley has stood out in football, basketball and baseball at Latta. The 6-foot-4, 330-pound offensive tackle led the Vikings to their first playoff appearance since 2003 by starting on both sides of the line. He committed to continue playing football at South Carolina in October. He will play in next week’s Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, as well as the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January.
Oglesby finished the season with 2174 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, and he eclipsed the 6,000-yard mark for his career. The Clemson commitment had 173 yards and a score in the Class AAA state championship game.
All five Mr. Football finalists were selected for next week’s Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, although Miller withdrew due to an injury.
“The schools they’ve committed to speaks for itself,” Rudolph said of the other four. “I can’t wait to get a look at these guys Monday through Friday.”“I’m looking forward to playing with [Park] this week. It’s going to be a great opportunity, a fun week, visiting the Shriners Hospital. We’re going to have fun, but we’re also looking to get some work done. It’s going to be the best players in the state.”
It will be a continuation of the healing process for Park. He said he planned on heading to Spartanburg for the Shrine Bowl on Sunday. After that all-star game, he will then have four days at home before heading to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
From there, he’ll be enrolling early at Georgia.
“That loss in the state championship game, it still kind of hit me deep,” Park said, holding the Mr. Football trophy. “To win it is a whole other feeling. I don’t think it will hit me until I leave.”