AMARILLO, Texas (KVII) — The annual Blair Cherry award, honoring the top college football player from one of the four Amarillo Independent School District schools was presented on Tuesday. There were three finalists this year, no nominee from Caprock despite the last three winners coming from that school.
This year's nominees, Ellis Newkirk of Amarillo High School and Hardin-Simmons University. The defensive lineman was just a sophomore and part of a Cowboys team that went 9-2, losing to eventual national champion, Mary Hardin-Baylor in the Division 3 playoffs. He carries a 3.4 GPA in political science.
The Palo Duro nominee, Horatio Smith, is a receiver, kick and punt returner at Northwestern Oklahoma State. Smith finished his season strong for the 4-7 Rangers, with more than 100 yards receiving in each game. He also has one kickoff return for a TD and his put return for a TD against SW Oklahoma state was the Division 2 play of the week. He carries 3.4 GPA in health and sports sciences.
The third nominee, and winner is Alex Plunk of Tascosa and Clairmont-McKenna College, located in California. A defensive back, the junior played in nine games this past season for a team that won a league championship for the first time in 31 years. The Stags made their first ever appearance in the NCAA playoffs but lost that game and finished with a 7-4 record.
Plunk, the son of Tascosa coach Ken Plunk, carries a 4.0 GPA and he's a Robert Day Scholar at the school. He is just the 4th THS grad to earn the honor in the past 22 years. A student who graduated from THS will receive a $500 scholarship in the name of Danny Lester, the winner of the first two awards.
The Blair Cherry award is named in honor of the former Amarillo High coach who led the Sandies to three straight state championships and later was head coach at the University of Texas, where he won an Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl during his tenure. He went 32-10-1 as head coach of the Longhorns and coached two other Texas greats, Tom Landry and Bobby Layne.
The award is sponsored by the Amarillo Palo Duro Chapter of AMBUCS.