Sully Says: The Landers Award

13 years ago, someone at KATV thought it would be a good idea to present a LIVE, 30 minute high school football "player of the year" special.

The first thing they had to do was find a sponsor. It had to be a successful, local business that would be in it for the long run. They made the right call when they decided on Steve Landers. Big Steve's second passion - a distant second behind selling cars - is watching high school football.

Steve Landers likes to think big - real big!!! It was Big Steve's call to make this a statewide award. Deserving players from any football-playing school in the state would be eligible to win the Landers Award and in the award's 12 year run, our winners HAVE come from all over the state.

Wednesday night on KATV, you can see the 13th annual Landers Award show. It's become one of my favorite nights of the year. I enjoy seeing the players, their coaches and their families. For most of these kids, it's their last high school football banquet.

It's also an opportunity to honor the late, great Paul Eells.

Paul loved Landers Award night!!! Just having Paul on the show made it a big event. I remember Paul's last Landers Award. It was 2005. Springdale stars Mitch Mustain and Damian Williams were in that group. I remember how excited all those finalists were to meet the longtime voice of the Razorbacks. On a night where I'm a bundle of nerves, Paul was such a great calming influence.

Wednesday night, Ian Shuttleworth of Bryant will receive the Paul Eells award. It will be the biggest highlight of the 30 minute show. Ian battled cancer early in his high school career but his story goes way beyond that life-threatening event. Ian went on to become a team captain at Bryant and has earned multiple scholarship offers. Bryant coach Paul Calley says Ian has reminded him that there is more to life than just high school football.

Who will win the 2012 Landers Award? For the first time in the history of the award, I don't know.

Here's the voting process: seven judges - Nate Olsen, Chad Hooten, Richard Davenport, Jim Harris, Randy Rainwater, David Haarten and me - rank the finalists from one to 13. KATV's Wayne Cox collects the ballots and turns them over to the accounting firm of Hudson and Cisne. I usually know by this time who has won but that's not the case this year. I've been told that the voting was extremely close and that three players received first place votes.

Tune in Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. to see who takes home the 2012 Landers Award trophy, the $3,000 scholarship check for his school and the Landers ring from our friends at Jostens.

I love Landers Award night!!!