The Tennessee Titans have named Rodney Saulsberry, head football coach of Whitehaven High School, the 2012 Titans High School Football Coach of the Year.
In a rematch of last year's state final, the Whitehaven Tigers defeated the Maryville Rebels 36-35, ending the Rebels' 43-game win streak and capturing their first-ever state championship.
Saulsberry's Tigers (15-0) battled throughout the contest, refusing to lose. They gained a 28-21 lead with 3:39 remaining in the game, but Maryville (14-1) slipped in a score to tie the game, 28-28, with 45 seconds remaining and force overtime. Undeterred and determined, the Whitehaven Tigers continued to battle.
Whitehaven began its second possession in overtime down 35-28, but the Tigers made all the right plays and reached the end zone for six points. Coach Saulsberry, determined to win, planned to go for two before his team reached the end zone. The Tigers lined up in a three-back formation that had been added the week of the game. Saulsberry was positive it would work, and his team proved him right with the decisive two-point conversion.
"I have known Coach Saulsberry since he was a young man and I watched him matriculate and learn how to become a great math teacher and leader in our community," said Dr. Vincent Hunter, principal of Whitehaven High School. "Everything about Coach Saulsberry is positive, and I not only respect him for what he does on the field but what he does in classroom and as a man.
"Coach is of great character and has surrounded himself with a great coaching staff, and it has been a total team effort."
Through the Titans Foundation, team owner K.S. "Bud" Adams, Jr. will make a $2,000 contribution to the Whitehaven High School football program in Coach Saulsberry's honor.
"High school football enjoys a great tradition in Tennessee," said Adams. "That tradition is based not only on the outstanding quality of play but on the devotion of their coaches who continue to develop high school football players into young men of strong character. I'm very pleased to underwrite this program that recognizes the efforts of so many talented high school coaches across the state!"
Saulsberry will be recognized prior to the Titans-Jaguars game on Dec. 30 as the Titans also recognize the 10 weekly 2012 Titans Coach of the Week winners.
Now in its 14th season, Adams has awarded more than $151,000 from the Titans Foundation to football programs across the state in honor of the Coach of the Year and Coach of the Week winners.
The criteria for selection include the coach's impact on his team, school and community. A statewide media panel votes each week to determine the weekly winner. All high school football coaches in Tennessee, regardless of their school's size, league, or division, are eligible to be selected each week. The program is designed to recognize high school coaches who transform, through their hard work and dedication, student-athletes into the best possible football players and citizens in their community.
Previous Titans Coach of Year winners:
1999 Jim Wilson, Glencliff High
2000 Tom Weathers, Red Bank High
2001 Ralph Potter, McCallie High
2002 Robert Lassiter, Gallatin High
2003 Jeff Morris, Milan High
2004 Buck Coatney, Knoxville Fulton High
2005 George Quarles, Maryville High
2006 Philip Shadowens, Smyrna High
2007 Ralph Thompson, Maplewood High
2008 Scott Blade, Hillsboro High
2009 Anthony Crabtree, Beech High
2010 Gary Rankin, Alcoa High
2011 James Counce, Henry County High
2012 Titans Coach of the Week winners:
1. Mac McCurry, Marion County High School
2. Kevin Ward, Crockett County High School
3. James "Bubba" Spears, Hillwood High School
4. Josh Fronabargar , West Carroll High School
5. Bruce Hatfield, Hendersonville High School
6. Jason Fitzgerald, Hixson High School
7. Brad Taylor, Bearden High School
8. Traye Aric, Portland High School
9. Philip Shadowens, Blackman High School
10. Graham Clark, Dobyns-Bennett High School