FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – For Ft. Washington (Md.) Friendly four-star athlete Joe Haden the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl so far has been all about firsts.
On Saturday, he found out for the first time that he's been nominated by Offense-Defense for the national player of the year. As a senior, Haden threw for 40 touchdowns and rushed for an additional 12 scores. He was shocked to find out about the honor.
"That's great," Haden said late Saturday night. "This is the first time I heard about it. I'm speechless. I don't know what to say. That's real good right there. Man, I don't even know what to say."
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He then had another first when he was able to share the news of being nominated for the award with his family. His mom, dad and four brothers were with him when he told him the news. Hugs, high fives and cell phone calls to family back home were then made.
It was just another bit of good news in what was a great senior season. He helped his team win a state championship, and then was nominated to play in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl.
"I was real excited that we came out with a championship finally," Haden said.
"I had been on varsity since I was a freshman. Three years we didn't make it to the championship, and then my final year we finally won it all. Then I got invited to this, that was real good. I've never been in a game like this before. I'm so excited."
He's also excited about his future as a Florida Gator. He arrives in Gainesville a few days after he is finished with the bowl game. When he gets there he hopes to create some magic with the ball in his hands.
"They were talking about first quarterback, and coach G (Billy Gonzales) said he was going to bring me in as a receiver/quarterback," Haden said.
"I like that. As long as I have the ball in my hands.
"I had a feeling about the Gators the whole time. I liked them when I was younger. When I went down to Gainesville, I just wanted to see what it was like. It was just perfect. The coaches are great. They have a chance to win a championship every year, plus they're losing four receivers. I report the day after I get back from here."