What: Best of Preps banquet
When: Tuesday, June 27, 6 p.m.
Where: Chattanooga Convention Center
Ticket info: Every athlete and coach named to a 2016-17 Times Free Press Best of Preps team will receive one ticket to attend. An email has been sent to those with a private link for them to RSVP. Anyone else who wishes to attend the banquet can order tickets for $50 at bestofprepschatt.com.
In just more than a week the Times Free Press will honor the area's top high school athletes and coaches at the annual Best of Preps banquet.
At the banquet, set to begin at 6 p.m. on June 27 at the Chattanooga Convention Center, awards will recognize an individual player of the year in all boys' and girls' sports, as well as an overall male and female athlete of the year and coach of the year.
Vic Beasley Jr., who led the NFL in sacks last season and helped the Atlanta Falcons reach the Super Bowl, will be the featured speaker. In his second professional season, the 24-year old Beasley led the NFL with 15.5 sacks, earning a Pro Bowl selection and All-Pro honors for the first time.
Every athlete and coach named to a Times Free Press Best of Preps first, second or third team for the 2016-17 school year receives one complimentary ticket to the banquet. An email has been sent to those athletes and coaches with a private link for them to RSVP. Anyone planning to attend must go to the link and RSVP to claim his or her ticket.
Anyone else who wishes to attend can do so by going to bestofprepschatt.com and ordering tickets there. Each costs $50. All questions concerning banquet tickets should go to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Kate Brennan at 423-757-6308.
Beasley was a three-sport star at Adairsville (Ga.) High School, where he was all-state in football and also placed third or better in the 100-meter dash, high jump and triple jump at the state track meet. He turned down scholarship offers from several college basketball programs, choosing instead to play football at Clemson University, where he became a two-time All-American and the Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year as a senior and is the program's career sacks leader with 33.
"I love Chattanooga, and I'm excited to get to be a part of a night that honors so many high school athletes," Beasley said. "When I was a kid, my family would come to Chattanooga on the Fourth of July to buy fireworks, and I remember coming to Lake Winnepesaukah a lot, too. In fact, I still come to Lake Winnie about every summer. I love the Cannonball (roller coaster).
"I still keep up with high school sports as much as I can, especially back home, so I'm looking forward to just meeting the kids. Hopefully I can put a smile on their face, but I'm sure they'll wind up putting a smile on my face when I hear their stories, because I'm young enough to remember being where they are just a few years ago."
The 6-foot-3, 246-pound Beasley was the Falcons' first pick in the 2015 NFL draft, and the eighth overall selection. A hybrid defensive end and outside linebacker, he is considered one of the league's top rising stars.
His first career sack came the second week of his rookie season when he took down former Best of Preps speaker Eli Manning of the New York Giants, but last season was his breakout year. In one early-season game against the Denver Broncos, Beasley recorded 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and eight total tackles.
"We knew we had great talent and potential even before the season started," Beasley said. "Coach (Dan) Quinn had been with Super Bowl-caliber teams before, so when he told us that he believed we have all the tools to be a championship team, that gave us the confidence we needed.
"One of the biggest reasons we were so successful as a team is because there weren't any individuals wanting more touches or worrying about themselves. We have team players and that's why we established our motto 'Brotherhood,' which to us means: Are you willing to do what it takes to get it done for your brother?
"That Super Bowl was a disappointing loss, but it's also added fuel to how we're getting ready for next season. We know what we were able to accomplish so we're not down and out, but we're not satisfied yet, either. There's a lot more out there for us, and we believe we can get there again and finish it."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.