It is one of the most wide-open Indianapolis Star Indiana Mr. Football races in the award's history. In 2009, West Lafayette High School quarterback Daniel Wodicka seemed to come out of nowhere to win the award as the state's top senior after leading his team to the Class 3A state championship. Fort Wayne Bishop Luers linebacker/running back Jaylon Smith would seem to be a slight favorite but as a player best known on defense and playing for small school, he doesn't fit the mold of previous winners. (His scholarship to Notre Dame and two victories shy of four consecutive 2A state titles are strong points in his favor, however.) Here are five top candidates but there are plenty of others to consider, including Charlestown quarterback Aaron Daniel, Pike defensive end David Kenney and Avon defensive end Elijah Daniel:
School: Lawrence Central Position: Quarterback Height: 5-9. Weight: 160. Stats: Completed 83-of-162 passes for 1,604 yards with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions; rushed for 1,174 yards and nine scores. Why he'll win: Top performer on the top-ranked 5A Bears. Coach Jayson West describes him as "our Mr. Football." Why he won't: Not well known as he didn't start until this season and won't likely be playing quarterback at the next level. In a deep and talented program, Christen was the backup quarterback as a junior and had 158 rushing yards and one catch as a slotback. West: "I haven't seen anyone out there who can quite do what he does. I think he's very unique. He can run. He's a heck of a good athlete. For him to be a leader of this operation is a neat thing. He waited his time behind Tre Roberson and Dre Townsend. He was sprung out on people and no one knew who he was unless you saw him play JV."
School: Linton-Stockton. Position: Quarterback Height: 6-7. Weight: 215 Stats: Completed 229-of-323 passes for 3,191 yards with 41 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Why he'll win: A 6-7 quarterbacks with big numbers will generate a lot of attention. A victory over a powerful Scecina team Friday to get Linton-Stockton to Lucas Oil Stadium for the Class A state championship will enhance his image. If he were also to knock off three-time state champion Lafayette Central Catholic. Why he won't: Comes from a Class A school with little media nearby. Linton-Stockton coach Steve Weber: "Austin has worked extremely hard to prepare himself as an athlete, a student, and a fine young man. He has put himself in a position to be successful in any thing he chooses to do. Without Austin, our system of offense does not work. We operate from armbands which tells individuals what to do. Austin's armband just tells him the concept and he has to put all of it together, and at a very quick tempo."
School: Warren Central Position: Linebacker Height: 6-1. Weight: 235. Stats: Has 93 solo tackles, 43 assists, 12 tackles for loss, 4 caused fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 interception. Why he'll win: University of Georgia-bound, he was dominant in big games for the Warriors and is regarded as one of the state's top three college prospects. Despite a 4-5 record in the regular season, Warren Central didn't give up more than 14 points in a game. Why he won't: Warren Central lost in second round of sectionals to 5A No. 1 Lawrence Central and finished 5-6. Warren Central interim coach Steve Tutsie: "Georgia coach (Mark) Richt said he doesn't have to go to Indiana to get a linebacker, he has a lot of them there (in Georgia). So that tells you how special Tim is. He made himself into a student of the game and that made him play at a much higher level than any of us thought he could. Has Tim got great instincts? Absolutely. But if you're going to be a great football player, you have to win at all sides."
School: Fort Wayne Luers. Position: Linebacker/running back. Height: 6-3. Weight: 212. Stats: Has 37 solo tackles, 26 assists, 2?1/2?sacks, 16 tackles for loss, one forced fumble. Rushed for 765 yards on 144 carries and 13 touchdowns. Why he'll win: The Notre Dame recruit is considered the No. 1 recruit in the state and has a strong year for Luers, which is playing in a 2A semistate in pursuit of a fourth consecutive state title. Why he won't: If he only gets regional support and Luers falls in semistate. No one from a Class A or 2A school has won the award. Fort Wayne Luers coach Steve Keefer: "He's an excellent athlete and a leader. He's five-star linebacker, one of the top two or three in the country. He is the total package. We've been using him more on offense since I took over. He's come up huge in the playoffs."
School: Heritage Christian Position: Wide receiver Height: 6-1. Weight: 185. Stats: Had 90 catches for 1,813 yards and a state single-season record 26 touchdowns. Also had 187 rushing yards. Holds Indiana career records in receptions (269), receiving yards (4,942) and touchdowns (62). Why he'll win: He is the most productive receiver in Indiana football history. Why he won't: Heritage Christian lost in the sectional final and no one from a Class A or 2A school has won the award. He could split votes with other Indianapolis-area contenders. Heritage Christian coach Ron Qualls: "Anthony Warrum is one of those players that amazes coaches and teammates each and every day. Watching (quarterback) Matt (Hunt) and Anthony in practice (and games) is a coach's dream. Anthony has worked diligently in developing into the complete package as a receiver. Anthony's ability to run impeccable routes, survey the entire field, find quick cutback lanes to use his 4.5 speed, and possesses hands that would amaze Penn and Teller make him the premier receiver in the state of Indiana."