Byrd and Cristman nominated for Mr. Football

By Wes Holtsclaw

   When Tuesday afternoon's TSSAA American General Mr. Football nominations came out, many people in Roan Mountain were surprised after last Friday's first round exit.
   But two good careers were rewarded as Cloudland linebacker Dane Christman garnered his second-straight lineman nod and quarterback Mark Byrd was picked in the backs category as one of the top three players of the year in their respective classifications in the 1A division.
   It's the second time in school history that two players have received nominations in the same year.
   The last time that happened was 1996 when Cloudland (1A) and Hampton (2A) sent two players a piece to the big show.
   Cloudland's James Tolley and Robbie Turbyfill, with Hampton's B.J. Taylor and Steve Tolley completed that trip.
   Christman also marks the second time that a Cloudland player has been nominated for the award two years in a row.
   The last time that happened was Tim Clipse's junior and senior year, when he was nominated for the award.
   "It's great," Christman said by phone Wednesday night. "It's a big surprise and I didn't expect it with us going out. I didn't think it was going to happen, but it's a big honor and I'm glad I have someone going down there with me."
   "It feels pretty good to have two players going down," said Byrd. "Dane's a heck of a player, and to get nominated is a good thing. I hate the way the season ended, but I like this a lot."
   A committee of statewide sports writers selected the winners based on performance in the 2003 regular season. Academics and character were also taken into consideration.
   High school head coaches and members of the media nominated the finalists.
   The awards will be presented on Monday, December 1, 2003 at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville. More than 500 people, including the honorees, their families, coaches, school administrators and members of the media from all parts of the state are expected to attend the luncheon.
   Christman finished his senior season with 142 tackles and close to seven sacks, with over 440 tackles and 30 sacks in his career.
   Byrd finished the season with 1,402 yards rushing with 25 touchdowns and seven conversion runs. He added 963 yards passing with seven scores, 13 passing conversions and no interceptions.
   This season, Byrd had 13 returns for 605 yards, including five punt returns and an interception for touchdowns. He has 35 career interceptions with 71 tackles on the year.
   He has helped Cloudland with over 9,000 total yards in his four year career with the Highlanders.
   Christman will be up against Will Hooper from Christ Presbyterian Academy and Jeremy Davis of Boyd-Buchanan. Byrd meets against South Pittsburg's Ron Cook and Fayette Academy's Collin Bodiford.
   "I wasn't looking forward to it," Byrd said. "I'm thankful for it. Hopefully we can go down there and win it."
   Byrd played the CAK game with a severe bruise to the thigh which could've easily kept him out.
   Both players admitted the desire to play this week, but they should get that chance down the road at the collegiate level along with others on the Cloudland squad.
   Other notable nominees in the area include Brandon Fanney of Morristown West (4A lineman) and Jeff Jennings of Jefferson County (5A back).