TAMPA — Hillsborough County’s oldest continuous high school award will be presented for the 71st straight year Thursday morning at the Hillsborough County School District building. Twenty years after the death of the man the Guy Toph Award was named after, many of today’s winners don’t know the history behind Hillsborough County’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, so we offer up this primer.
The award is given to the county’s best senior football player, based on accomplishments on the field, in the classroom and in the community. Private school players are also eligible, but none has won the award since 1998 (Jesuit QB Gary Godsey). It is selected by county head football coaches (local media participated in voting until 2006), who vote using a point system based on placement, much like the Heisman.
Guy Toph was the first football captain at the new Plant High in 1927 after he transferred from Hillsborough. According to a 2004 Times story, at that time, Plant was so in the middle of nowhere that players were given machetes to cut down palmetto trees to make space for Dads Stadium. Toph went on to the University of Florida, was a lieutenant colonel in World War II serving in Burma and India, and was the second orthodontist to open a practice in Tampa. In 1939, he created the award and presented in until the late 1980s. He died in 1990 at age 79.
By the numbers
1 Guy Toph winners playing in the NFL (2002 winner Andre
1 Winners who are county head coaches (Sickles’ Pat O’Brien, who won in 1980 at Hillsborough)
5 Private school players to win
17 Awards won by Plant players, most of any school
49 Price, in cents, of a gallon of milk in 1939, the first year the Guy Toph was awarded (Guy Thompkins, Hillsborough)
This year’s top candidates
Christian Green, QB, Tampa Catholic: Talented offensive leader of Crusaders team that advanced to the Class 2B state title game. Top recruit (undecided) ran for 11 touchdowns and threw for seven.
Maurice Hagens, RB, TBT: Miami-bound bruiser has been the cornerstone of Titans offense. Ran for 1,314 yards and 18 touchdowns for his third straight 1,000-yard season.
Mike Mirabella, LB, Plant: Senior leader of the Class 5A state champions’ defense had 149 tackles (10.6 a game), 12 sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Terrence Mitchell, DB/WR, Hillsborough: One of the area’s fastest players, the FSU commit was a factor in all facets — offense, defense and special teams.
Scott O’Donoghue, LB, Sickles: Paced Gryphons’ comeback with 137 tackles (12.5 a game) and five sacks. Played linebacker, quarterback and running back.