Over the past 12 years The Landers Award has become the most prestigious honor bestowed upon an Arkansas prep football player. The award, presented by KATV Channel 7 and sponsored by Landers Toyota-Scion, has separated itself from other outlets, both local and national, with its process and pomp and circumstance. KATV sports anchor Steve Sullivan calls on an esteemed panel of media to determine the winner along with a viewer vote. The winner is revealed on a live award show where one player is awarded a handsome trophy, ring and $3,000 scholarship awarded to the winner’s school. This year’s ceremony can be seen at 6:30 p.m. on Wed., Jan. 16 on KATV. Past winners include current NFL players Peyton Hills, Darren McFadden and Damien Williams. Former Arkansas QB and future first-round draft choice, Tyler Wilson, won the award in 2007. All of the 12 award winners earned Division I scholarships, including eight who went on to play at BCS Conference schools.
While each season has produced some tough decisions among voters, this year may be the toughest next to 2007 when Wilson edged future Hog teammates Jarius Wright, Dennis Johnson, Joe Adams and De’Anthony Curtis.
Leading the pack this year is Pulaski Academy senior tight end Hunter Henry (Arkansas commit), North Little Rock senior running back Altee Tenpenny (Alabama commit), Fayetteville quarterback Austin Allen (Arkansas commit) and Greenwood senior receiver Drew Morgan (Arkansas commit).
Henry, Tenpenny and Allen are among the nation’s best at their resepctive positions. The trio played in national different national all-star games.
Henry earned USA Today All-American honors and played in the Under Armour All-American Game. The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder with 4.7 speed earned four-star status and a 106 ranking by ESPN. He ranks as the No. 2 tight end nationally by ESPN. Henry won a 4A state title as a junior and helped the Bruins to the 5A state semifinals in 2012.
Tenpenny, who committed to Alabama early last year, played in the Army All-American Game and earned four-star distinction and a 77th ranking by ESPN. He ranks as the No. 9 running back by ESPN. He and the Charging Wildcats landed in the 7A state semifinals last fall.
Allen, the younger brother of Arkansas QB and 2010 Landers Award Winner Brandon Allen, played in the Semper Fidelis All-American Game. ESPN ranks Allen as the No. 23 quarterback recruit in the nation. He led the Bulldogs to back-to-back 7A State Titles.
Morgan isn’t as highly regarded in national recruiting circles as the aforementioned trio, but his versatility impressed new Arkansas coach Bret Bielema enough that the coach offered the playmaker a scholarship soon after he arrived in Fayetteville. Morgan is a proven winner, as he has keyed Greenwood’s back-to-back title runs and 38-game winning streak.
So who wins the Landers Award? A case can be made for each. Henry is the nation’s best prep tight end. Tenpenny, who sat out 2011 with an ankle injury, is ranked as the state’s No. 1 recruit by ESPN and is committed to the No. 1 college football program. Allen, made his mark in the Semper-Fi game, and already earned the Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year honors. Morgan, unlike the others, played a key role on both sides of the ball and special teams, and is one of the big reasons Greenwood is the most dominant program in Arkansas. His stock rose when he earned the Arkansas offer.
The group makes for a tough decision for voters. In other years, all four would be no-brainer picks. The finalists are another sign that Arkansas is on par per-capita with other states when it comes to elite football talent.
Landers Award 2012 Finalists
Walter Ashley, RB, Pine Bluff — One of the more dynamic players in the state; Ashley amassed more than 2,500 yards rushing, more than 900 yards receiving, 800-plus punt return yards and close to 1,000 yards in kickoff returns.
Jakahari Howell, QB, Arkadelphia — Accounted for all five touchdowns against Class 6A Sheridan.
Akee Johnson, WR, LR McClellan — The best player you never heard of. Played multiple positions on a team who didn’t win many games.
Drew Morgan, WR, Greenwood — Lined up at running back against Fort Smith Southside and ran for more than 200 yards.
Altee Tenpenny, RB, NLR — Averaged 144 rushing yards per game and scored 16 TDs.
Quin Coleman, RB, Hot Springs — Ran for a career high 223 yards and two TDs against De Queen and 231 yards and four scores against Mena.
Tearris Wallace, RB, Bentonville — Wallace, a Memphis commit, Ran for more than 1,000 yards three straight years, and played in three straight state title games.
L.J. Wallace, WR, Pulaski Academy — The UCA commit racked up 1,855 receiving yards and 25 TDs.
Austin Allen, QB, Fayetteville — Allen completed 233 of 366 passes for 3,593 yards and 29 TDs while rushing for 10 scores.
Seth Peters, QB, Greenbrier — Peters becomes one of few players to earn all-state honors at two different positions after shifting from wide receiver to quarterback last fall.
Wallace Foote, RB, Benton — Foote amassed 450 rushing yards and 552 total yards in a playoff win at Russellville.
Hunter Henry, TE, Pulaski Academy — Henry totaled 1,449 receiving yards and 13.54 yards per catch in 2012.
Dontrell Brown, QB, Stuttgart — Brown earned 4A State Title Game MVP honors with 219 yards rushing and three scores on 30 carries as the Ricebirds routed Ozark 28-7.
Past Landers Award Winners
- 2000 De’Arrius Howard of West Memphis
- 2001 Reed McKinney of Warren
- 2002 Landon Leach of Russellville
- 2003 Peyton Hillis of Conway
- 2004 Darren McFadden of Oak Grove
- 2005 Damien Williams of Springdale
- 2006 A.J. Whitmore of Nashville
- 2007 Tyler Wilson of Greenwood
- 2008 Spencer Keith of Pulaski Academy
- 2009 Michael Dyer of Little Rock Christian
- 2010 Brandon Allen of Fayetteville
- 2011 Fredi Knighten of Pulaski Academy