Photo composite by Valera Decker
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- On the football field both Ooltewah defensive end Jacques Smith and South Pittsburg quarterback Terrell Robinson have the ability to influence the outcome of games. But standing on stage Monday afternoon in front of more than 700 people at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center, the talented duo were reduced to nervously swaying back and forth as they waited to hear whose names would be called for the Mr. Football awards.
Ultimately both had their names called, Smith as the Class AAA Lineman of the Year and Robinson as Class A Back of the Year. Two other area players were also finalists but did not win their respective awards -- Baylor quarterback Jacob Huesman for Division II-AA Back of the Year and South Pittsburg defensive end Jiajuan Fennell for Class A Lineman of the Year.
TSSAA Mr. Football award winners
Back of the Year: Terrell Robinson (South Pittsburg)
Lineman of the Year: Josh Carroll (Adamsville)
Back of the Year: Bo Wallace (Giles County)
Lineman of the Year: James Stone (Maplewood)
Back of the Year: Anthony Hayes (White Station)
Lineman of the Year: Jacques Smith (Ooltewah)
Back of the Year: Jake Overbey (USJ)
Lineman of the Year: Steven Stafford (ECS)
Back of the Year: Barry Brunetti (MUS)
Lineman of the Year: Jonathan Brown (Christian Brothers)
Kicker of the Year
Nick Pollard (Father Ryan)
"The second time was much more nerve-racking," said Smith, also a winner in 2008. "I had really set the bar pretty high for myself after last year, but I didn't think my stats were up to par with what they should have been this year, so I actually didn't think I would win.
"I've been telling my girlfriend the last two weeks that I didn't think I would win this time because the other two guys were really good players."
Smith, a University of Tennessee commitment, became only the fourth Chattanooga-area player to win the award in consecutive years. The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder had 57.5 tackles, 8.5 sacks and 23 tackles for loss this season and will graduate Dec. 19 so he can enroll at Tennessee on Jan. 13 for the spring semester.
"Jacques has been a shining light for our program for some time, so I'm glad to see him end his high school career with that award again," Ooltewah coach Benny Monroe said. "I've been coaching for a long time and I have never had a player who plays as hard or with as much emotion as he does every snap. He's a special player and a special kid who will do very well at the next level."
Robinson (6-3, 190) has led the Pirates to the Class 1A state championship game. They will play Union City at 1 p.m. EST Friday at Tennessee Tech University. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga commitment has thrown for 1,687 yards, rushed for 1,322 and produced 46 total touchdowns.
"My heart started beating really fast the closer they got to calling the winner," said Robinson, who becomes the third Pirates player to win the award, following David Jones last year. "This is a big honor for me and my teammates. It's really an honor for me to be considered up there with the great players from South Pittsburg, considering the tradition we have.
"Now I'm focused on Friday and the unfinished business we have in that game."
There were 33 total finalists, three in each classification for both Back and Lineman of the Year as well as three for Kicker of the Year. South Pittsburg and Alcoa were the only two public schools with finalists in both categories. Top-ranked Alcoa will play for its sixth straight state championship Friday in the Class 3A title game.
The 6-1, 185-pound Huesman led the Red Raiders to the second round of the playoffs, throwing for 1,433 yards and rushing for 789 with a combined 18 touchdowns. The Mr. Football winner in his category was Memphis University School quarterback Barry Brunetti, a West Virginia commitment.
Adamsville linebacker Josh Carroll beat out Fennell for the Class A Lineman award. Fennell (6-4, 220) is a Middle Tennessee State commitment who has made 79 tackles, 15 for loss and five sacks. He also has 18 catches for 380 yards and two TDs as a tight end.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...