MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WRCB) -- There's not much that makes Austin Sanders nervous, but the 6-foot-6, 295-pound Bradley Central senior admitted feeling a few butterflies at the annual TSSAA Mr. Football Awards on Monday.
"I was behind that curtain for a little bit and my heart started beating and my hands got a little sweaty," he said with a grin.
Luckily, all that stress melted away moments later when Sanders was named the Class AAA Lineman of the Year, becoming the first Mr. Football winner in Bradley Central's proud history.
"I was not expecting it at all. It was a big shock. I don't remember hearing the rest of my name, if that says anything," Sanders joked. "But it means a lot to be the first winner at Bradley."
Bears' head coach Damon Floyd said that it's fitting that Sanders would be the first, considering how much he's meant to the Bradley Central program both on and off the field.
"He's just a very humble kid. He's always willing to help teammates, and he's got great character," Floyd said. "That's the thing that makes you the most proud about Austin. You like coaching a kid with his kind of talent, but he's a better person than he is a player, so that says a lot."
His play on the field says plenty, too.
Sanders graded out at better than 91-percent as a blocker and recorded 48 pancake blocks as a senior. On defense, seven of his 16 tackles were for a loss and he recovered one fumble.
He hopes his best is yet to come though, after verbally committing to play for the University of Tennessee.
"People are always telling me, like my dad and coaches, never stop working," Sanders said. "It's not over yet, and it won't be over anytime soon. I just have to keep trying to get better at everything you do.
"When you take that mindset into consideration and you look around and you're here at the Mr. Football awards, it's exciting."
It was also an exciting day for four other area players who were among the 33 statewide finalists.
Boyd-Buchanan's Malik Brewer (Class A Lineman), South Pittsburg's Demetric Johnson (Class A Back), Howard's Brandon Walters (Class AA Lineman) and Baylor's Rafael Gaglionone did not win the state's top honor, but just being able to take the stage as one of three finalists in their respective category meant a lot.
"It feels pretty good to get recognition like this, especially being a lineman and a guy that's 320 pounds," Brewer said. "I'm thankful for my school, my coaches and teammates and opposing players for always pushing us, and for pushing me."
2012 TENNESSEE TITANS MR. FOOTBALL AWARD WINNERS
Division I, Class A Lineman
Tyler Coen, Gordonsville
Division I, Class A Back
Will McKamey, Grace Christian
Division I, Class AA Lineman
Brett Kendrick, CAK
Division I, Class AA Back
Charlie High, CAK
Division I, Class AAA Lineman
Austin Sanders, Bradley Central
Division I, Class AAA Back
Jalen Hurd, Beech
Division II-A Lineman
Chase Hensley, USJ
Division II-A Back
Todd Kelly, Knoxville Webb
Division II-AA Lineman
Derek Barnett, Brentwood Academy
Division II-A Back
Cornelius Elder, Ensworth
Kicker of the Year
Jonathan King, Farragut