Performing under the Friday night stadium lights is one thing. Speaking under the Tuesday morning gymnasium lights is another.
Jason Thoren, Lawrence High's consensus all-state running back-linebacker who battled a sore back all season long and mononucleosis in the Lions' state championship game, also had to overcome a little stage fright this morning.
He addressed an all-school assembly in the LHS gym after he was awarded the Thomas A. Simone Memorial Football Award for the outstanding high school football player in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Also attending the assembly were several Kansas City Chiefs -- Jonathan Hayes and Neil Smith -- KC Royal Brian McRae, several former Chiefs and a smattering of media representatives.
"I wasn't feeling too good," Thoren said. "I was real nervous."
Area coaches select the award. It was established in 1931 as the Dr. D.M. Nigro award until his death in 1976. It was reinstated by Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Simone as a tribute to their 12-year-old son, Tommy, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1983.
"As far as high school football goes, this is as high as it goes," LHS coach Dick Purdy said. "In light of the fact that we're a little ways away, that really attests to Jason's ability to make people aware of him."
Thoren rushed for 1,254 yards, averaging 104.5 yards per game. He caught seven passes for 130 yards and scored a team-leading 20 touchdowns.
He started all 12 games as both fullback and linebacker.
The award was kept a surprise until midway through the assembly.
"My parents all knew, but nobody said anything about it," Thoren said. "Finally, I caught on. When they called out the second name, I couldn't believe it."
KC, Mo., Rockhurst running back Shalom Tolefree was runner-up. Roeland Park Miege quarterback Matt Boots finished third in the voting, and Oak Park, Mo.'s, Matt Ament was fourth.
"It's an honor just to be nominated," Thoren said. "There are a lot of good players in the state of Kansas and Missouri."
Also at the ceremony, LHS lineman Jim Myers was given the Buck Buchanan Award for the outstanding lineman on the Kansas side of the KC metro area. Liberty's Jeremy Martin won the award for the Missouri side.
"I didn't know anything about this," Myers said. "The coaches said to get dressed up so I could get my picture taken. It's a great honor."