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The Tennessean

Before former Vol James Wilhoit was the kicking guru, he starred at Hendersonville

By Tom Kreager, Nashville Tennessean,


Thank you for reading The Bootleg, our high school sports newsletter. I'm high school sports editor Tom Kreager.

Before James Wilhoit was a kicker for the Tennessee Vols or became the kicking whisperer for athletes in Tennessee and across the South, he was a kicker for Hendersonville.

That's where I first met Wilhoit. I covered him for the USA Today Sports Network as a newly wed and newcomer to Tennessee when I worked for the Gallatin News Examiner more than 20 years ago.

Back then, Wilhoit boomed kicks into the end zone, lined up regularly for 50-yard field goals and beyond when needed and helped the Commandos finish as the Class 5A runner-up to Riverdale that season under former coach Bruce Hatfield. I spent about six to seven games covering that team before being promoted to a new assignment in Robertson County.

Well, 20-plus years later (yes, James and myself are getting older) and Wilhoit has become the guru for kickers. He even had a stint helping the Tennessee Titans.

You can read George Robinson's fabulous story on Wilhoit here.

He's coached nine of the past 10 Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Kicker of the Year award winners and likely coached dozens of the finalists for the award. Here's the good thing about Wilhoit: it doesn't matter whether or not he coached a kicker, he will promote kickers excelling. He keeps tabs on kickers across the state.

It's not uncommon for me to find a DM on the X platform from him showing me what a kicker from somewhere in Tennessee had a great night kicking and punting. That's what sets him apart. Sure, he's the kicking coach at Brentwood Academy. But he follows the position everywhere.

Mr. Football hopefuls

Well, it's that time of year. We have started giving readers information on what names you need to know for the Tennessee Titans Mr. Football awards. We started today with 10 high school football players that I'd have on the ballot if it was Week 11.

We'll continue this stories throughout the next few weeks.

But for those that don't understand the Mr. Football process, let me fill you in.

First, the Mr. Football award is a regular season award. What an athlete does statistically in any round of the playoffs doesn't factor into it.

Head coaches and members of the media are permitted to vote for the award. Coaches can't vote for their own player.

Results from that round of voting are given to a Mr. Football committee made up of sports writers from across the state. Those writers meet and discuss those voting results. The committee members vote anonymously for what will be the semifinalists, finalists and winner at a closed-door meeting prior to the TSSAA playoffs.

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