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4th title could pave way for Mr. Football

For now, Jaylon Smith wants to focus on the task at hand. So the Bishop Luers senior running back/linebacker would rather not talk about any postseason awards – specifically the 2012 Mr. Football title right now.

“I want to get this four-peat first,” he said.

One thing could lead to the other for Smith, who leads the three-time defending Class 2A state champion Knights (10-4) against top-ranked Indianapolis Ritter (14-0) tonight in the state championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. A good showing – plus a win by the Knights – will only enhance Smith’s chances of making northeast Indiana history. The winner will be announced in a couple of weeks.

In the 20-year history of the award, presented by the Indianapolis Star and voted on by the Indiana Football Coaches Association, no area player has won.

“As far as I am concerned, he is the best,” Luers interim coach Steve Keefer said. “He does it all – offense, defense and of course during the tournament he has picked up a bigger role in the offense.”

A recent survey listed five players as the top candidates for the award: Smith, Lawrence Central QB Drake Christen, Linton-Stockton QB Austin Karazsia, Warren Central linebacker Tim Kimbrough and Heritage Christian WR Anthony Warrum.

The race is said to be wide open despite the fact that Smith is a Notre Dame recruit, a U.S. Army All-American, a preseason All-USA All-American and listed as a finalist for the 2012 Butkus Award as the nation’s top prep linebacker. No other player from the state is on any of those lists.

A five-star recruit, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Smith is listed as the No. 1 recruit in Indiana by several scouting services.

Smith’s numbers are keeping him from being the overwhelming choice. He has 1,115 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, while getting 68 tackles and six sacks on defense. Good numbers, but not outstanding.

“We see teams running away from him (on defense), and he doesn’t have the greatest stats, but he has tremendous presence on the field,” Keefer said. “I have had several coaches in the playoffs that were in awe of the ability that he has. He is the total package, and he is a neat kid. He is a great team leader.”

By contrast, Christen has thrown for 1,670 yards and 18 touchdowns and ran for 1,297 yards and 22 scores. Of the top five candidates for Mr. Football, Christen and Smith are the only ones playing in a state championship game this weekend.

“I don’t think there is any player who is more valuable,” Lawrence Central coach Jayson West said of Christen. “For a total production for a football player, I don’t think there is anybody who has done what he has done.”

Christen would be the school’s second Mr. Football in three years after current IU quarterback Tre’ Roberson won it in 2010.

“They are very similar in production, but Tre’s numbers were better because he stayed in games longer,” West said of the two Bears’ quarterbacks.

gjones@jg.net

Mr. Football

2011: Gunner Kiel, Columbus East
2010: Tre’ Roberson, Lawrence Central
2009: Daniel Wodicka, West Lafayette
2008: Morgan Newton, Carmel
2007: Paul McIntosh, Evansville Reitz
2006: Darren Evans, Warren Central
2005: Dexter Taylor, Warren Central
2004: Jason Werner, Roncalli
2003: Desmond Tardy, Warren Central
2002: Clayton Richard, McCutcheon
2001: James Banks, Ben Davis
2000: Otis Shannon, Cathedral
1999: Derrick Ellis, Arlington
1998: Rex Grossman, Bloomington South
1997: DuJuan Daniels, Chatard
1996: Israel Thompson, Martinsville
1995: Earl Haniford, Martinsville
1994: Josh Martini, East Central
1993: Bo Barzilauskas, Bloomington South
1992: Alex Smith, Franklin County

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