Murfreesboro, Tenn. — Titans Owner K.S. “Bud” Adams, Jr. and the Tennessee Titans continued their tradition of honoring the top high school football players in the state by sponsoring the annual Mr. Football Awards luncheon on Monday.
The Titans organization was proud to honor a total of 33 players who were nominated as finalists by high school head coaches and the media. A top lineman and back was named Mr. Football in each of five divisions that were based on classifications of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. For the eighth time in the award’s history, three top kickers from across the state were recognized.
Former Titans/Oilers stars Kevin Dyson, Chris Sanders and Craig Hentrich joined current staff members in honoring the state’s best high school football players.
More than 500 people attended the annual banquet at Embassy Suites Hotel and Convention Center to celebrate athletic accomplishments made by players who have also handled their academic responsibilities and been great representatives for their schools and communities across the state.
“Monday’s celebration recognizes more than the ability of these young men to play our great game of football,” Adams said. “The young men were here because of their outstanding character and academic achievements, traits which will pave their way through life, long after their football days have passed. I congratulate all of the Titans Mr. Football Award finalists for the outstanding manner in which they represent their school and community!”
Adams has been an enthusiastic supporter of high school and youth football since he moved the franchise he founded from Houston to Tennessee in 1997. The Titans became the title sponsor of the Mr. Football Awards in 2007, and his efforts also include the Coach of the Week and Coach of the Year grants through which $169,000 has been donated in 14 seasons.
TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress said the Mr. Football Awards have come a long way since they started in 1985 when about 40 people attended a ceremony with three honorees.
“We have so many parents, coaches and even kids that come up and are so thankful for the opportunity to be here, and without the Titans, it wouldn’t be possible,” Childress said. “We just appreciate what the Titans organization is doing throughout the state of Tennessee.”
The banquet began an exciting week for the TSSAA, which will crown eight football teams as state champions at the BlueCross Bowl in Cookeville from Thursday through Saturday.
“This is one of the biggest weeks we have throughout the year,” Childress said. “Our ultimate goal, as always and just as the Titans’ goal, is to make this something that’s a lifelong memory for our kids that participate during the year.”
Jalen Hurd of Beech High School and Cornelius Elder of Ensworth were selected as Mr. Football in their respective divisions Monday, and hope to share the title of state champs with their teammates by winning later this week.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting to get this award, but I’m very glad and I give all the glory to God,” Hurd said. “It’s a blessing. It really is. Anytime you get recognized as one of the top players, you just feel proud of yourself, and I’m just proud of my team for helping me get this award.”
Hurd’s team will play Columbia at 7 p.m. Friday, and Elder’s team will play Memphis University School at 7 p.m. Thursday in an attempt to win its third straight title.
“I just want to make the best of it. They’re a great team,” said Elder, who won his second straight Mr. Football Award.
“I just want to humble myself, go back to school, get ready for practice and get ready for Thursday,” Elder said. “It’s a big week.”
“Voice of the Titans” Mike Keith emceed the ceremony, Titans Cheerleaders Mariel and Stephanie A. helped Dyson, Sanders and Hentrich present the awards, and Titans Executive Vice President Don MacLachlan gave closing remarks. MacLachlan said the Titans are honored to partner with the TSSAA and salute the athletic and academic accomplishments of the young men, as well as their character.
Childress said an overarching goal of the TSSAA is to emphasize the role that athletics plays in each student athlete’s personal development.
“We want to make sure that we instill in these kids that you have a gift, which is your athletic ability, but there’s some other things that must play an integral part,” Childress said. “You’ve got to make satisfactory academic progress toward graduation. You are developing lifelong skills so you can be a success in life.
“This is what athletics is all about,” Childress continued. “We’re teaching kids that you take this on, and you’re going to be a success in life. As long as they understand that, and as long as we continue to have quality student-athletes, knowing that they’ve got to be a student first and then an athlete, then we’re going in the right direction.”
2012 TENNESSEE TITANS MR. FOOTBALL AWARD WINNERS
Division I, Class A Lineman: Tyler Coen, Gordonsville; Back: Will McKamey, Grace Christian Academy
Division I, Class AA Lineman: Brett Kendrick, Christian Academy of Knoxville; Back: Charlie High, Christian Academy of Knoxville
Division I, Class AAA Lineman: Austin Sanders, Bradley Central; Back: Jalen Hurd, Beech
Division II-A Lineman: Chase Hensley, University School of Jackson; Back: Todd Kelly, Webb School of Knoxville
Division II-AA Lineman: Derek Barnett, Brentwood Academy; Back: Cornelius Elder, EnsworthKicker of the Year: Jonathan King, Farragut High School