Rising Whitefield Academy sophomore Caleb LaVallee received the Gatorade Award as the top rising sophomore linebacker last weekend at the FBU Top Gun Showcase in Naples, Florida.

The showcase, an annual three-day national event, highlights some of the nation’s best middle and high school athletes in a position-specific test of skill and ability. LaVallee’s honor of top linebacker in his class was voted on by position coaches who evaluated players throughout the showcase.

“I believe I was chosen because of my strong performance in both the competitive drills and 7-on-7 sessions, and the classroom sessions,” LaVallee said. “I gave (100%) on every play and was able to demonstrate my on-field leadership combined with my physical and mental abilities.”

Whitefield coach Coleman Joiner was not shocked by LaVallee’s honor.

“I wasn’t at all surprised to hear how much Caleb stood out last weekend,” Joiner said. “What those guys got to see for a few days, we get to see every time Caleb shows up to work here at Whitefield. He is consistently one of the hardest workers on our team, and since the end of his freshman season, he has turned it up a few notches.”

By winning the award, LaVallee automatically received an invitation to participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl National Combine. The combine, set for San Antonio in January, features the nation’s top 600 underclassmen, providing LaVallee the opportunity to showcase his skills in front of college football’s top scouting organizations, as well as the All-American Bowl selection committee.

While LaVallee welcomes the chance to play among the nation’s top linebackers, he has not lost sight of his goals for the 2020 season at Whitefield.

“I love the game of football tremendously,” LaVallee said. “I am preparing to compete with my varsity teammates at Whitefield Academy in hopes of continuing to glorify God, going deep in the state playoffs and becoming better at the game of football.”

Joiner said the importance of LaVallee’s achievement cannot be understated. He also believes the award may be the first of many.

“To receive this sort of honor is special,” Joiner said. “He deserves it. It’s not coach-speak when I say that he’s literally worked to be considered one of the top players in his class. I think you could say this is a stepping stone of some sort in terms of catching the attention of people outside our community. This is absolutely just a start. He’s going to continue to work and commit himself to being the best athlete he can be, so this is just the first of many recognitions he’s going to receive.”

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