Kenai Central senior AJ Hull was named the Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year on Thursday.
Hull led the Kardinals to a victory in the medium-schools First National Bowl in the fall.
“I knew there were other great athletes in the state, so it’s exciting to know my numbers compare with the best,” said Hull, who also played quarterback on a state winner as a sophomore. “It’s not about winning the Gatorade Player of the Year, it’s about winning that state championship.
“That’s a far better feeling than winning the Gatorade award.”
Hull was 32 of 102 with 816 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 933 yards and 14 touchdowns on 162 carries.
On defense, Hull had 96 tackles and six interceptions.
He said none of those numbers would have been possible without his team.
“You can be the best athlete in the state, but if you’re on a team that doesn’t come in day in and day out and put the work in, you won’t win player of the year,” Hull said.
Kenai Central head coach John Marquez said it was Hull’s devotion to the team that stood out.
The Kardinals started out the season running the spread formation. As a quarterback, that gave Hull the ability to put up huge numbers.
But when the coaching staff decided it would be better for the team if Hull started playing under center, the senior quarterback was all for it.
“He went with it 110 percent,” Marquez said. “He could have complained.”
Marquez said that when a star player shows that devotion to the team, everyone else on the squad has to get in line.
“He was a coach out there for us on the field,” Marquez said. “He did a great job of working with the younger kids and getting them ready to play.”
Even though Kenai plays in the medium-schools division, Marquez said Hull has the athleticism to play high school football almost anywhere. Marquez has coached high school football for 15 years, with just one of those coming in Alaska.
“AJ could start for Service High School,” Marquez said. “He could play in the Lower 48 for some of the big schools down there.”
The award also looks at service in the community and academics. Hull has a 3.67 grade-point average.
“He did all the volunteer work we asked him to do, whether it was helping an older couple move or sweeping the parking lot,” Marquez said. “A lot of guys would have just had the younger guys do it, but he never did.”
Hull continues an impressive string of winners from the Kenai Peninsula. The Peninsula won just three awards — Joe Roderick and Josh Coleman of Soldotna, and David Holloway of Nikiski — from 1986 to 2007.
In the last five years, the Peninsula has won the award four times — Kenai’s Bill Chimphalee in 2008, SoHi’s Anthony Griglione in 2009, SoHi’s Robbie Smithwick in 2010 and Hull.
“Looking up to Bill Chimphalee and seeing the athlete he was, my goal was to be talked about as much as he was,” Hull said. “I knew he worked hard in the offseason and did whatever he could to make himself better.”
Marquez has a theory about why the Peninsula is on a great run.
“On the Peninsula it’s all about team and community and school,” Marquez said. “They are playing for the community rather than worrying about individual stats. I’ve really noticed that on the Peninsula.”
Hull said he wants to play football in college, but he does not know where he is going yet.