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Sr. year precious to Speed

Sr. year precious to Speed
MURFREESBORO — Colton Speed summed up the Mr. Football experience the same way he described his just-completed senior season.
Priceless.
“I wouldn’t trade this or my senior year for anything,” the Union City High School standout said after being edged for the Tennessee Titans Class A Back of the Year Award by South Pittsburg’s David Jones Monday.
Not only did Speed join an elite fraternity with his nomination for the accolades, he became just the sixth UCHS player to be so honored in the 24-year history of the Mr. Football Award.
He was part of a select group of 45 football players encompassing all five Division I categories, two Division II classifications and a Kicker of the Year competition.
More than 700 people, including the honorees, family members, coaches, school administrators and members of the media, attended the awards ceremony and luncheon at the Embassy Suites Hotel.
Speed, who led the Tornadoes to 10 straight wins, the Region 7A championship and the second round of the playoffs, hid well any natural disappointment of not winning the prestigious honor.
“I’d love to have won the state championship first and then Mr. Football, but to just to be included among all the great players who were nominated, it’s real special,” the record-setting UCHS quarterback said. “We had a real good season as a team, though, and David Jones deserved it (Mr. Football), I thought.
“I was just so proud to stand up there and be recognized with him as one of the final three and for the season the team had.”
The recently-completed campaign was Speed’s first on the gridiron since his freshman year as he elected not to play football as a sophomore and a freshman — instead concentrating solely on his first love — baseball.
And he says he has no regrets for what might have been had he not skipped two football seasons or opting to rejoin the program for his senior year.
“I’m happy with everything and the way it worked out,” he said. “I missed football, especially on Friday nights when I didn’t play. I was lost. But I’m not sorry I didn’t play those two years. Coach (Darren) Bowling came in and said I was his guy, and I got excited again about playing.
“I just decided I had one more year, and I wanted to make the best of it. It took a little while to get comfortable again, but I’d say after that first practice in pads at midnight, I felt right at home.”
Speed accounted for over 2,000 all-purpose yards, rushing for 1,496 — the most ever by a UC quarterback — and 29 touchdowns.
He also threw for 692 yards and seven more scores.
His overall numbers were actually better than both Jones and the third finalist, Manassas running back James King.
Jones, who was a two-way standout for season-long No. 1-ranked South Pittsburg, lived up to his billing as the preseason favorite for the Back of the Year Award after being named the BlueCross Bowl Defensive MVP last season when the Pirates mauled McKenzie for the Class 1A championship.
He rushed for just less than 1,000 yards, averaging 8.8 yards-per-carry, and also shined on the defensive side at linebacker.
King ran for more than 1,700 yards and 14 TDs, leading Manassas to a 9-1 regular season record.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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