The 6-foot-5, 213-pound senior quarterback had completed 185-of-278 passes for 3,041 yards and 39 touchdowns against five interceptions at the time of his selection. Russell, a 2007 First Team All-State honoree by the Mississippi Association of Coaches, also had rushed for 294 yards and eight touchdowns on 87 carries for the Wildcats (13-1) entering the Class 5A state title game against South Panola High scheduled for Dec. 5.
Russell has maintained a B-plus average in the classroom and has completed service mission work with his church youth group. A member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Russell served as a page for former Lt. Governor Amy Tuck and has volunteered as a local youth soccer coach.
"Tyler's a prototypical quarterback," said Lance Reed, head coach of rival Natchez High. "He stands well in the pocket and has a very accurate and strong arm. He makes throws that as a coach, you say: a high school quarterback won't be able to do it—and he can do it. He has what colleges would love to inherit and grow. I'm just glad he's leaving this year."
Russell has verbally committed to a football scholarship at Mississippi State University next fall.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states 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 & field. The selection process is administered by ESPN RISE Magazine, which works with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Russell joins recent Gatorade Mississippi Football Players of the Year Charles Mitchell (2007-08, Clarksdale HS), Derek Sherrod (2006-07, Caledonia HS), and Cordera Eason (2005-06, Meridian HS) among the state's list of former award winners.
For more on the Gatorade Player of the Year program, including nomination information, a list of past winners, and the announcement of the Gatorade National Player of the Year, visit gatorade.com/playeroftheyear.