On Saturday, at halftime of the North vs South Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl, the 20th South Carolina Mr. Football trophy will be presented to an exemplary high school football player. The task of determining which outstanding student-athlete receives that honor falls upon a committee of former coaches.
“We just are trying to pick the best football player who also is a great ambassador for the state of South Carolina,” SCACA director Shell Dula said. “We feel like it’s one of the biggest honors given here.”
The South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association has been honoring a Mr. Football since 1995, when wideout Jermale Kelly picked up the trophy before taking his talent to the University of South Carolina. In the years since, six Mr. Football winners have played for the Gamecocks, three went to Clemson, and one chose S.C. State. Ten others played out of state.
College choice is not something the selection committee considers, though, Dula said.
“It’s based, certainly, on athletic and football ability but, certainly, character does play a part and academics play a part,” he said. The 22 nominations the committee reviewed this year had the requisite recommendations from a coach and a teacher.
Some also included letters from school administrators and community members attesting their nominee’s integrity. The committee members reviewed the nominations independently before getting together to decide on the finalists and winner.
“This year, we came up with five finalists, and that wasn’t easy, but it was a lot easier than choosing a winner,” Dula said.
This year’s finalists are running back Matt Colburn from Dutch Fork, Dorman wideout J.J. Arcega Whiteside, Wren quarterback Kelly Bryant, quarterback/wide receiver Dupree Hart of Northwestern and offensive lineman Zack Bailey from Summerville.
“We’ve got five great finalists, and they’re all winners. We feel like it is a great honor to be a finalist for the award,” Dula said.