MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WRCB) -- Jajuan Lankford admitted feeling some pressure when he was announced as a finalist for the TSSAA Mr. Football awards.
The South Pittsburg running back was one of three nominees for the Class A Back of the Year, the same award he was denied as a finalist two years ago.
However, he wasn't nervous about going home empty-handed this time around.
He was worried about his wardrobe.
"I had an idea in my head," Lankford said with a smile. "I wanted to be wild and do something different. I found something easy, but it was on a golf website. I liked it, though, so I picked it up."
And his decision definitely stood out.
Lankford's blue-and-gold argyle pants and matching bow-tie combo got plenty of play as the senior star finally claimed his Mr. Football honor, beating out Trinity Christian's Kyle Akin and Eagleville's Chris Hale for the prestigious award.
The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder rushed for 1,547 yards and scored 26 total touchdowns this year in leading the Pirates (12-1) back to the Class A state championship game for the fifth time in the last seven years.
"It means a lot because I came my sophomore year and lost it, but I stayed humble from it. It made me want to work harder to actually win it," Lankford said. "Then my junior year I didn't make it here at all, which was disappointing. But now as a senior, I got back here thanks to my team."
Like Lankford, the second time was the charm for Baylor's Rafael Gaglionone.
The Red Raiders' senior was named the state's Mr. Football Kicker of the Year after falling short as a finalist last year. He follows former teammate and current University of Tennessee at Chattanooga kicker Henrique Ribeiro, who won the honor in 2011.
Gaglionone, who verbally committed to Wisconsin during a visit to Madison two weekends ago, made 8-of-13 field goal attempts and tied the school record with a long of 57 yards. He also made 32 of his 33 extra-point attempts and 42 of his 44 kickoffs went for touchbacks.
Unfortunately for Gaglionone, holiday weekend travel problems left him stranded in California, and he was unable to make it back in time for Monday's ceremony.
"For the last couple years we haven't had to worry about kickoff coverage, and obviously he gave us the huge threat of kicking field goals anytime we passed the 50-yard line," said Baylor coach Phil Massey, who accepted the award on Gaglionone's behalf. "He's certainly going to be missed, but what an excellent way to end his career by walking away with the Mr. Football Kicker of the Year award."
Marion County linebacker Blake Zeman was also a finalist, but lost the Class A Mr. Football Lineman of the Year honor to Coalfield senior and University of Tennessee verbal commitment Zach Stewart.
Standing side-by-side on the stage, the physical difference was obvious between the two small school stars. However, despite standing about seven inches shorter and 75 pounds lighter than the 6-foot-5, 305-pound Stewart, Zeman's production was equally impressive.
The junior two-way star and three-year starter finished with 104 tackles, including 31 for a loss, and recovered six fumbles, leading the Chattanooga area in all three categories.
Now he plans to use the experience as motivation to follow Lankford and Gaglionone as winner's the second time around.
"It's just a great honor to be up there with so many great athletes," Zeman said. "It's great to be here and be recognized as one of those great athletes. I guess I'll just work harder and try to get it next year."
This year, and more specifically this week, remains the focus for Lankford, who is South Pittsburg's first Mr. Football winner since linebacker Coltin Blevins in 2011.
The Pirates will play Union City in the Class A state final Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET at Tennessee Tech's Tucker Stadium.
Lankford hopes to be holding another trophy following that game. And this time, he won't have to worry about what he'll be wearing.
"I won't celebrate (winning Mr. Football) much until after this weekend," Lankford said. "I'll take winning state with my team and having them celebrating with me over an individual trophy any day."
Vols well-represented at Mr. Football awards
The 'Power T' was very visible Monday in Murfreesboro, where five Tennessee assistant coaches made the trip to support a large contingent of Vols' commitments and recruiting targets who were finalists for the Mr. Football awards.
Wide receivers coach Zach Azzani, linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, defensive line coach Steve Stripling, defensive backs coach Willie Martinez and tight ends coach Mark Elder were among those celebrating with Mr. Football winners and UT verbal commitments Stewart, Todd Kelly (Knox Webb), Jack Jones (Oakland) and Derek Barnett (Brentwood Academy).
Tennessee coaches also made it a point to support Class AAA Back of the Year winner Josh Malone and Class AAA Lineman of the Year finalist Charles Mosley.
Malone, a talented wideout from Station Camp, will make his college decision later this week. He reportedly has Tennessee, Florida State, Clemson and Georgia as his finalists.
Mosley, a 6-foot-5, 345-pound defensive tackle and offensive guard from Brighton, is expected to make his decision between Tennessee and Alabama on Friday.
2013 TENNESSEE TITANS MR. FOOTBALL AWARD WINNERS
(High school head coaches and members of the media nominated the finalists. A committee of statewide sports writers selected winners based on performance in the 2013 regular season. Academics and character were also taken into consideration.)
Division I, Class A Lineman
Zach Stewart, Coalfield
Division I, Class A Back
Jajuan Lankford, South Pittsburg
Division I, Class AA Lineman
Paul Adams, CPA
Division I, Class AA Back
Daryl Rollins-Davis, Fulton
Division I, Class AAA Lineman
Jack Jones, Oakland
Division I, Class AAA Back
Josh Malone, Station Camp
Division II-A Lineman
Brant Mitchell, Knoxville Webb
Division II-A Back
Todd Kelly, Knoxville Webb
Division II-AA Lineman
Derek Barnett, Brentwood Academy
Division II-AA Back
D'Andre Ferby, Ensworth
Kicker of the Year
Rafael Gaglianone, Baylor
Can't find what you're looking for?