The three area high school football players in the running for the Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Award settled for their finalist recognitions Sunday at the 34th annual event honoring the state’s top football players.
TJ Sheffield of Independence in Class 6A, Kam Harris-Lusk of Fairview in Class 3A and Noah Henderson of Christ Presbyterian Academy in Division II-AA were all named finalists for the award, trying to become the county’s first winners since 2015.
“It’s an honor and not many people get this opportunity,” said Sheffield, who is committed to play college football at Purdue. “This is a great way to end my senior year of football.”
Cane Ridge standout Devon Starling was named the Mr. Football winner in Class 6A.
In Class 3A, Walker Russell of Alcoa claimed the Mr. Football title. Harris-Lusk, who guided Fairview into the state quarterfinals, said he was just excited to have the chance to win.
“Even though I didn’t win, it’s still a major blessing to be up here,” the unsigned senior said. “I’ve loved playing. I loved having all my teammates’ backs and them having mine.
“It’s been a great four years playing for coach (Chris) Hughes and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Lausanne senior Eric Gray claimed his third straight Mr. Football Award in Division II-AA. The Michigan commit is the first three-time winner in state history.
Henderson was named a finalist, while his teammate Kane Patterson was a semifinalist. CPA topped Gray’s Lynx 21-14 last week to advance to the championship game.
“I was definitely very honored to be up there in that position,” Henderson said. “Obviously, I couldn’t be up there without the hard work of the rest of the team and all the coaches, but it’s a big honor.”
The annual awards banquet featured several hundred people and was held at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Sunday. The event was emceed by the “Voice of the Titans” and Williamson County’s own Mike Keith with help from former Titan great and current Independence High School assistant principal Dr. Kevin Dyson.
“This is such an outstanding honor for all 30 of the young men recognized today at the Tennessee Titan Mr. Football Awards,” TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said. “They were here not only due to their athletic ability that the displayed on the field throughout the season, but just as much for their outstanding character and academic achievements.”
Sheffield finished his career by overtaking big brother Nate Johnson, who was a 2015 Mr. Football Finalist, as the all-time leader in receiving yards in school history with 3,296. Johnson still owns the state record for most touchdown receptions in a season with 26 set in 2015. Independence ended the season with a double-overtime loss at Brentwood in the second round of the playoffs to finish 6-6 overall.
“This was really exciting, coming from my freshman year watching my big brother,” said Sheffield, who led the Eagles with 75 catches for 1,550 yards and 16 TDs this season. “I tried to copy what he was doing and learned some of my own skills as well.
“I was pretty nervous up there, but it was cool.”
Harris-Lusk was the second straight finalist for Fairview and coach Chris Hughes and just the third in school history. Darius James was recognized last season.
Harris-Lusk has accounted for more than 5,000 all-purpose yards with 58 total touchdowns as a Yellow Jacket. He finished with 1,760 all-purpose yards this season for Fairview, which fell to Stratford in the quarterfinals to finish 10-3.
“The day I got the message, I mean, my heart dropped. I was so excited to know that I had a chance to win,” the all-around senior said. “You expect to get a little farther (in the playoffs) but everything can’t end the way you want it to. I enjoyed every minute of it, losing, winning, it didn’t matter, just being with this team has been great and all the glory to God.”
Henderson and the Lions will play for the state championship in DII-AA on Friday in Cookeville against county and region rival Battle Ground Academy. The senior, who is uncommitted but holds offers from schools like Air Force, Navy and Harvard, has 71 catches for 1,159 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
“I think it was something our team has earned,” he said. “Individually, I was just trying to do what I do. I couldn’t be here without the rest of the team.”
2018 Tennessee Titan Mr. Football Award Winners
Bryce Hanley, Greenback
Aaron Swafford, Meigs County
Walker Russell, Alcoa
Cade Ballard, Greeneville
Deshawn Page, Fulton
Devon Starling, Cane Ridge
Stone Norton, Davidson Academy
Eric Gray, Lausanne
Maurice Hampton, MUS
KICKER OF THE YEAR
Garrett Taylor, Oakland