Hayden senior Evan Hilling was named a state finalist last week in the prestigious Wendy's High School Heisman Award.
Nearly 14,900 high school students nationwide were nominated this season, and Hilling was one of 1,020 students selected as state finalists. Colorado will narrow its field to one male and one female winner within the next couple of weeks.
Wendy's and the National Association of Secondary School Principals sponsor the Wendy's High School Heisman Award, which is awarded in conjunction with the collegiate Heisman trophy. The high school honor recognizes the nation's top high school seniors who best exemplify a supreme "citizen-scholar-athlete."
Hayden High School counselor Danica Moss nominated Hilling and senior Lauren Branstetter for the award.
"They are clearly standouts," she said. "They are fabulous kids. They are so nice and respectful."
And talented, academically and athletically.
Hilling has a 3.8 GPA and is president of Hayden's chapter of the National Honor Society. He participates in football, basketball and track. Hilling is an all-conference basketball player and a state track representative. This season, as a senior member of the unbeaten Hayden football team, Hilling has a team-high 630 yards receiving and five interceptions.
"He's been a star since he's been playing high school sports," Moss said.
Hilling and Branstetter, who participates in volleyball, basketball and track , have applied themselves academically while at Hayden, Moss added.
Each has taken college-level classes, and Branstetter is No. 1 in her class with a 4.02 GPA. Hilling will leave high school with more than 20 hours of college credit.
"I was actually really excited to get (the state finalist) letter in the mail," Hilling said. "I was in fifth hour and Mrs. Moss and Principal (Troy) Zabel pulled me out to tell me about it. They handed it to me and shook my hand."
Colorado will select one boy and one girl to represent the state. One hundred other athletes from throughout the country also will be selected. Of those 102 athletes, 12 (six boys and six girls) will be invited to New York City for a banquet and other festivities. ESPN2 will feature the 12 finalists and will air the High School Heisman ceremony Dec. 12.