Whoever said ‘two out of three ain’t bad’ wasn’t in attendance Monday for the TSSAA Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Awards presentation at Nissan Stadium.
A pair of Williamson County Schools athletes were recognized with top honors, as Centennial linebacker Tyrel Dodson won the Class 5A Mr. Football Lineman of the Year award and Ravenwood placekicker Crews Holt was named Mr. Football Kicker of the Year.
In an uncomfortable occurrence, a third WCS finalist, Independence receiver Nate Johnson, was presented with the 5A Back of the Year award. Moments later, it was realized that the trophy was actually intended for Oak Ridge’s Tee Higgins.
“It was a script mixup,” Matthew Gillespie of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association said after the presentation concluded. “It was unfortunate. We type 100 pages; every now and then a mistake gets made.”
Johnson, whose undefeated Eagles squad will play Sevier County for the Class 5A state title Friday night, was stunned by the sequence of events but maintained his composure.
“It was a gut shot, but the guy next to me deserved it,” Johnson said. “He worked hard just like I did, and he came out with it.
“I’m going to get that (championship) ring.”
Independence coach Scott Blade declined comment regarding the situation.
“Individual awards, you want to win,” Williamson County athletics director Jeremy Qualls said. “But when they get that gold ball Friday, he or (Independence quarterback) Andrew Bunch will probably get most valuable player.”
Dodson, who was on stage with Johnson, had no such suspense. His status as the winner was revealed two weeks ago when Ooltewah linebacker Jeremiah Jackson, the other original finalist, was removed from consideration following his arrest on a domestic violence charge.
“I’m happy I won, but I didn’t want to win it that way,” said Dodson, who led the Cougars to the Class 5A semifinals and a 12-2 record – with both losses to Independence. “I felt bad for Jeremiah. I’m blessed to be in this position. I’m glad I won it.”
Dodson and Johnson were friends as youngsters.
“My heart was jumping for him,” Dodson said. “I had flashbacks of him and me playing in the back yard: He used to break my ankles and I used to try to run through him. (I hate) that he didn’t win, but he’s got a great future ahead of him and he’s about to go win a state championship.”
Holt has similar hopes, as Ravenwood gets set for a Class 6A title-game rematch with Maryville following a 35-34 overtime loss in last year’s finals.
“It feels amazing, after putting in all the work, getting here and being recognized,” said Holt, who was selected ahead of Siegel’s Jacob Smith for the kicking award. “It’s a huge honor for me, my coaches and my teammates. It just feels good to be recognized.”
Dodson and Holt were among five Middle Tennessee athletes to receive Mr. Football awards, along with Nashville Christian’s Daniel Bituli (Class 1A lineman), Forrest’s Boone Sweeney (Class 2A lineman) and Montgomery Bell Academy’s Ty Chandler (Division II-AA back).
In addition to their trophies, which were presented by Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota, Brian Orakpo and Ryan Succop, all 17 of the winners received personalized Titans replica jerseys.
“We decided with the change of venue, we decided we’d try to make it a little extra-special for them,” said Josh Corey, youth/high school football coordinator for the Titans. “We did a walk-through (of the stadium) and the jerseys were a complete surprise. We took them to the locker room and told them we had something for them.
“It’s a special occasion. They’ve worked really hard, and we wanted to make it as memorable an occasion as it could be.”
For more from veteran Midstate sports writer Maurice Patton, go to www.mopattonsports.com.