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How does one become Mr. Football? Here's the process besides the on-field play

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The Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Awards finalists will be announced on Tuesday. Williamson County has representatives in seven of the 10 categories, including two in the running for Kicker of the Year.

As the announcement approaches to unveil the three finalists, we thought it would be timely to look into the actual selection process, especially with so many county football players honored as semifinalists in the 35th year of the awards.

So, how does one be named a semifinalist, finalist and, ultimately, Mr. Football?

We asked Matthew Gillespie, the TSSAA Assistant Executive Director. He helped organize the current process more than 15 years ago and still facilitates it.

One note before we even get started: the winners are already known. There is no public voting process. In one meeting early this month, a committee representing each region of the state selected the semifinalists, finalists and Mr. Football Award winners all at once based off a nomination process.

Again, the winners are known and have been known since before the original announcement of the semifinalists was released on Nov. 6. There’s no changing that.

So, let’s dive into the full process a bit more.

Nominations for Mr. Football are accepted no later than the final Friday of the regular season, so Nov. 1 this year.

Gillespie said nomination reminders are sent out to every media contact on the TSSAA list as well as head coaches asking for up to three nominations in each classification and three players, regardless of classification, for the Mr. Football Kicker of the Year award. Coaches can’t nominate their own players, Gillespie added, though there was a time before the current process when this happened regularly.

We at the Williamson Herald sent out our top choices in each classification in the final week of the regular season. Nearly all were later recognized: Logan Nardozzi of Fairview in Class 3A; Tim Coutras of Nolensville in Class 4A; Cade Walker of Page in Class 5A; Andrew Mason of Ravenwood in Class 6A; Nick Semptimphelter of Battle Ground Academy in Division II-AA; along with Kicker of the Year nominees Luke Akers of Ravenwood and Paxton Perry of Brentwood Academy.

Gillespie said all these nominations from around the state are collected and assigned point values based on their nominations. The first choice in the nominations received is assigned the highest point value, the second choice a lower number and so on.

“You can make the argument every year that there will always be some kids that will be missed,” Gillespie admitted. “But this is the best process we have at this point.”

There’s another option to add a player later in the process as well, but we’ll get to that.

After all these nominations are sorted and categorized, Gillespie said the top 8-10 players in each division and for Kicker of the Year are given to the selection committee usually in the week following the conclusion of the regular season. The list isn’t in order of who had the most points based on the nomination process, but instead listed in alphabetical order. Information, including statistics, is gathered about each nomination. This part of the process is also where a committee member can add a potential missing deserving player.

The committee itself is made up of three media professionals from the west of the state, three from the middle and three from the east. These individuals can essentially nominate a player from their area if they feel a deserving candidate may have been overlooked, Gillespie said.

“We have had kids not included in the nomination process who have went on to become finalists based on this,” he added.

That final group of nominees is then assessed. Statistics are looked at. Games can be discussed. You name it.

“It’s like a round-table discussion,” Gillespie said.

Each member of the committee then makes their top three selections in a secret ballot to be processed ultimately determining the top three, including the winners of the Mr. Football awards.

This year the committee met on the Tuesday, Nov. 5, and went through this entire process to determine the Mr. Football semifinalists, finalists and winners.

“When we walked out of there, we knew the winners,” Gillespie said.

As a final piece of the process, school administrators of potential winners are contacted to verify a student-athletes good-standing as well as eligibility.

“Once in a blue moon, we’ve had an administrator say something like, we love how this kid played on the field, but this happened or this happened and for whatever reason, we’d rather have you move on to the next one,” Gillespie said.

He said the TSSAA wants to make sure each winner is a positive representation to their schools and are in good academic standing.

The process is similar for Mr. Basketball and Miss Basketball, but only in football are the semifinalists recognized directly after the regular season like this. As the postseason continues, football finalists are announced – remember that will take place Nov. 19 and already has been determined. Those finalists are then officially invited to the Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Awards at Nissan Stadium on Dec. 2.

The Williamson Herald will be awaiting the announcement Tuesday like everyone else and we’ll also be in attendance Monday, Dec. 2 when the winners are unveiled, finally.

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