Another Earwig has been honored as a Gatorade Player of the Year.
On Monday, Dunn School soccer standout Rodney Michael was named the 2016-17 Gatorade California Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Michael is the second Gatorade California Boys Soccer Player of the Year to be chosen from Dunn School after Abu Danladi won the state and national awards in 2014.
"The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Michael as California’s best high school boys soccer player," the Gatorade Company said in a press release.
Michael is now a finalist for the Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year award to be announced in June. He joins an alumni association of past state soccer award-winners, including Alexi Lalas (1987-88, Cranbrook HS, Mich.), Steve Cherundolo (1996-97, Mt. Carmel HS), Abby Wambach (1997-98, Our Lady of Mercy, N.Y.), Heather O’Reilly (2001-02, 2002-03, East Brunswick HS, N.J.), Matt Besler (2004-04, Blue Valley West HS, Kans.), Jack Harrison (2013-14, Berkshire HS, Mass.), Mallory Pugh (2014-15, Mountain Vista HS, Colo.).
Danladi won both awards as a senior at Dunn in 2014, before going on to star at UCLA and eventually become the No. 1 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft last year by Minnesota United. Danladi is a native of Ghana.
The 5-foot-8, 145-pound senior forward led the Earwigs to a 13-1-1 record and the CIF Southern Section Division 6 championship this past season. Michael scored 22 goals and passed for 14 assists, tallying seven goals in Dunn’s five-game run to the sectional title. The CIF Division 6 Player of the Year, Michael scored the game-winning goal in the sectional title game in both 2015 and 2017, when the Earwigs beat Adelanto in the title game.
Michael concludes his prep soccer career with 74 goals and 43 assists. Michael helped the Earwigs go 16-1-1 this past season.
Michael is a native of Sierra Leone in West Africa. He has volunteered locally as part of a fundraising campaign to benefit cancer research. He has also donated his time distributing goods to the homeless and to the Craig Bellamy Foundation, which runs a soccer academy in Sierra Leone.
“Rodney was literally quicker on the ball than my defenders were off the ball,” said Sam Mahtani, head coach of Maranatha High School in Pasadena. “I’ve never seen someone move so quickly with such change of speed and direction. He was impossible to defend.”
Michael has maintained a weighted 3.81 GPA in the classroom. He has signed a national letter of intent to play soccer at UCSB beginning this 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, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee, 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.
Michael joins recent Gatorade California Boys Soccer Players of the Year Elliot Smith-Hastie (2015-16, Loyola High School), Corban Anderson (2014-15, Granite Bay High School), Danladi (2013-14, Dunn School), Cristian Roldan (2012-13, El Rancho High School), Ema Boateng (2011-12, Cate School), Seth Casiple (2010–11, Rocklin High School), Reed Williams (2009-10, Corona del Mar High School), Adam Jahn (2008–09 & 2007-08, Jesuit High School), and Jalil Anibaba (2006-07, Davis Senior High School) among the state’s list of former award winners.
As a Gatorade Player of the Year, Michael will be able to select a national or local youth sports organization to receive a grant as part of the Gatorade Play It Forward program. Every Gatorade Player of the Year state winner receives a $1,000 grant to donate and will have the opportunity to enter for an additional $10,000 spotlight grant by writing a brief essay explaining why their selected organization deserves additional support.