Honoring the best

Dion Clisso - 7/26/2022, 4:01:05 PM

The Thomas A. Simone Memorial Football Awards Presented by The McCarthy Auto Group is presented annually to the most outstanding high school football player in the greater Kansas City metropolitan area. The award was originally established in 1932 in the name of Dr. D.M. Nigro and continued until Dr. Nigro’s death in 1976.

No award was given from 1976-83, until Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Simone, as a tribute to their 12-year old son Tommy, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident in April 1983, reinstated the award.

The recipient of this prestigious award is selected by a vote of the high school football coaches and select media members in the metropolitan area. The award is given to the football player most representative of excellence on the playing field.

The trophy presented symbolizes the qualities of love, courage and friendship – qualities young Tommy so aptly displayed.

Along with the trophy, which resides at the high school of the recipient for a period of one year, the Simone-Fontana Foundation presents a donation of $1,500 to the athletic department of the recipients’ high school.

Past winners are a who’s, who of Kansas City High School football. Including Olathe North’s Darren Sproles who played in the NFL for more than a decade, Lee’s Summit’s Drew Lock who is the quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks and Fort Osage’s Skylar Thompson who was recently drafted by the Miami Dolphins.

For 10 years The Simone Award was the only honor given by the Simone Foundation. The awards expanded to honor defensive players along with offensive linemen. The Junious “Buck” Buchanan Memorial Award was established in 1992 and is presented annually to the most outstanding lineman or linebacker in the big class (Missouri Classes 5-6 and Kansas Classes 5A-6A) category. From 1992-99, the award was given to one Missouri and one Kansas player, but the award has only been given to the most outstanding player since 2000.

Buck Buchanan was the first player taken in the 1963 American Football League Draft. Selected by the Kansas City Chiefs, Buck quickly proved the rave notices that preceded him were not unfounded. Eddie Robinson, his coach at Grambling, where he had been an NAIA All-America in 1962, called him “the finest lineman I have seen.”

The Buchanan Award has quite the roster of winners. In the last decade several winners such as Lee’s Summit West’s Evan Boehm and Blue Springs’ Elijah Lee and Carlos Davis have gone on to have NFL careers. Lee currently plays for the Chiefs while Davis is with the Pittsburg Steelers.

A few years later the awards expanded again. The Frank Fontana Memorial Award was established in 1999 in memory of Frank Fontana, an outstanding athlete who excelled in football and basketball. In 1981, Frank captained the State Champion St. Pius X High School football team. He was also selected to the all-Northland team that year. In basketball, he captained the Warriors’ squad.

Many small school quarterbacks and running backs have earned this honor. The Fontana elevated players who may have gone underrecognized with an award of their own. Some fantastic seasons have been honored including Holden’s Max Mickey who ran for 3,382 yards which was a Missouri state record at that time and Bishop Miege’s Carter Putz who set the Kansas passing record during his career with the Stags.

In 2000 another defensive/offensive lineman award was added to honor small school players. The Bobby Bell Award was established and is presented annually to the most outstanding defensive lineman/linebacker in the small class (Missouri Classes 1-4 and Kansas Classes 1A-4A) category.

The award is named for former Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro and Pro Football Hall of Fame player Bobby Bell. Bobby Bell was the most highly honored college lineman of the 1962 season. His coach at the University of Minnesota described the two-time All-America choice and Outland Trophy winner as “the greatest lineman I have ever seen.”

This honor has been given to some of the best players in the Metro who just don’t go to a big school. Winners include Tommy Simone’s younger brothers Anthony Jr. and Charlie and Center’s Maliek Collins who currently plays for the Las Vegas Raiders.

The awards grew again in 2007. At the suggestion of high school football referee Curtis Whiters, the Simone-Fontana Foundation contacted Otis Taylor family friend and Kansas City icon Ollie Gates about starting the Otis Taylor Award to recognize the most outstanding wide receiver/tight end in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Ollie took the idea to Otis Taylor and his family, who gave the award their blessing.

Otis Taylor was one of the best and most exciting wide receivers of his era. He played in three AFC-NFC Pro Bowls, following the 1970-72 seasons. At the conclusion of his career he owned the Kansas City Chiefs’ career records for receiving yards (7,306), receiving touchdowns (57) and 100-yard receiving games (20). He is currently a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Some of the most athletic players in the Metro have won this award including Lee’s Summit West’s Monte Harrison who is currently playing Major League Baseball with the Los Angeles Angels and current Michigan star receiver Ronnie Bell who also won the Simone Award after his senior season at Park Hill.

In the last decade several more awards have been added. In 2010 the All-Simone Team was added bringing even more recognition to Metro football players. In 2011 the Nathan Stiles Inspiration Award began and is given to a person who has made an impact on football in the Metro. The Stiles Award is in memory of Spring Hill player Nathan Stiles who passed away after being injured in a game in 2010. In 2011 the foundation began honoring the offensive and defensive players of the year from the Kansas City Missouri School District Interscholastic League to bring more recognition to inner-city football.  Other awards that are handed out are the Gordon Docking Media Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award.

This past year one of the biggest changes occurred when The McCarthy Auto Group became the presenting sponsor of the awards. In May the first McCarthy Auto Group/Simone Foundation scholarship was awarded to Sumner's Rickey Brown who earned $5,000 for his work on the field and as a leader in the Sumner athletic programs.

This honor will continue and be awarded in the spring with the winner recognized at the Simone Awards ceremony after the football season.