SAMMAMISH, Wash. -- It's been quite a year for Skyline High quarterback Max Browne. The five-star Rivals.com recruit threw for 4,526 yards, 49 touchdowns, and just five interceptions in a high-flying offense. He led the Spartans to the Class4A state championship, and committed to USC. He's done all this while maintaining a 3.5 GPA and donating his time to community endeavors. For all of those things, Browne received the Gatorade Player of the Year award at Skyline's auditorium on Tuesday, though he had no idea it was going to happen until just before the ceremony started.
Moreover, Browne, who thought that the interruption to his class schedule was happening so that he could speak on behalf of a teammate who was also trying to bag a college invite, didn't see this coming -- Seattle Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson was on hand to speak with and about him, and helped present the award. Browne's teammates and friends packed the auditorium during the surprise assembly, as did his proud and beaming parents, Mike and Cheryl.
"Everything up to about 45 minutes ago, I had no idea," Browne said after the ceremony. "It totally surprised me. Coach pulled me out of third period, and we walked up to the conference room. I thought I was going to talk on behalf of one of my players -- that's what they said. So, I was getting prepared to speak about him, they pulled me in there, and Russell was the first guy I saw."
Wilson and Browne had met over the summer at one of the Elite Eleven camps, and as someone who runs his own passing academy in the offseason, Wilson was eager to speak on Browne's behalf.
"Max is a great football player, and he has tremendous determination," Wilson told Yahoo! Sports. "He has so much skill and leadership and competitive nature. We're so happy to name him the Gatorade National Player of the Year, because he's so deserving of the award."
Wilson, who has led the Seahawks to a 9-5 record while making himself into a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, understands the value of determination. Selected in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft because he was supposedly too short at 5-foot-11 5/8, the North Carolina State and Wisconsin product has ably displayed those characteristics that had Seahawks general manager John Schneider praising his football intellect from Day 1, and former NC State offensive coordinator and current Montreal Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman saying that when he sat in Wilson's kitchen on a recruiting trip, he knew the 18-year-old would be an NFL quarterback some day.
"I believe that the separation is in the preparation," Wilson said on Tuesday. "The way you prepare helps you be great on the football field, and in the classroom, and in the community. Max has done a tremendous job of that."
Browne estimates that he had about 15 official offers from colleges, and though Notre Dame, Michigan, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and "most of the Pac-12 schools" were among the interested parties, he said that the final choice wasn't a tough one.
"When I got to USC, the combination of top-notch athletics and top-notch academics -- I couldn't turn it down," he said. "The big school on the West Coast that USC is, and the quarterback tradition ... I think it's something that a lot of the kids on the West Coast and across the nation dream about."
Spartans head coach Mat Taylor has known Browne since the young man was 5 years old -- he coached Browne's older brother, Mitch, as well. Asked what the younger Browne brings to the table, the coach seemed more eager to speak about the off-field intangibles.
"His drive, his leadership, his overall ... just his work ethic," Taylor said of his quarterback. "He just continues to get after it every single day. Skyline football means more to this kid than just about anybody, and he always had that drive to be the best."
And what is USC getting? Coach Taylor: "He's going to graduate early, he'll be down there in January, and he'll be competing for that starting job. I know he's a true freshman, but this is a unique kid. He's the best leader I've ever been around, and it's going to be fun to watch."
The fun is just beginning for Browne. In July, he'll attend a banquet in Hollywood at which the National Male and Female Athletes of the Year will be selected from a pool of 12 athletes in different sports. He'll also attend the ESPY Awards -- when he's not preparing to compete for that starting job at USC.
As Browne sees it, he'll be moving from Spartan starter to Trojan mainstay as soon as possible.
"I've been told that I'll compete for that job, and in my mind, I'm right there. There's a bunch of good quarterbacks there, and they all have an offer from SC for a reason. Obviously, Matt [Barkley] is leaving, and we'll see what happens. It will be an exciting next four years."