Boyle County linebacker Lamar Dawson is used to aggressively hunting down quarterbacks, running backs and receivers.
Now he's the one being aggressively pursued as the most coveted senior football prospect in the state. Dawson is being chased by a pack of major colleges, including Kentucky, Florida, Louisville, LSU, Michigan, Oregon, Purdue, Southern Cal, Texas Tech and Tennessee.
But like all great middle linebackers, Dawson isn't distracted from the task at hand. He is oblivious to the recruiting hoopla as he zeroes in on helping the Rebels repeat as Class 4A state champions.
"I'll worry about where I'm going to college later," he said. "Right now I'm just focusing on my senior year at Boyle County. All I'm thinking about is winning."
What about being a front-runner in the race for player of the year?
"It's really not on my mind," Dawson said. "I'd rather defend the title than win Mr. Football."
Since Mr. Football honors were first awarded 24 years ago, only three defensive specialists have won the title: Paducah Tilghman's Kurt Barber (1987); Harrodsburg's Dennis Johnson (1997), and Fort Campbell's Micah Johnson (2005).
Dawson also plays tight end, receiver and running back — he totaled 700 yards last season — but he is first and foremost a linebacker.
It's easy to understand how he led the Rebels in tackles with 165 last year.
At 6-foot-2, 244 pounds, he has run the 40 in 4.52 seconds. He's also bull-strong. He bench-presses 300 pounds and squats 500. He won the state shot-put title last spring.
He's smart, too. He carries a 3.7 GPA.
"Lamar's got all the tools and natural athletic ability," Boyle County Coach Larry French said. "But he's a hard worker, too. He's worked hard to get where he is."
Dawson has all the credentials to make him a Mr. Football candidate, but he's not alone in a strong senior class in the Commonwealth.
Louisville Eastern's 6-3, 240-pound Jon Davis runs a 4.6 40 and is projected as a tight end in college, but he also plays running back and receiver for the Eagles.
"He's a great athlete and a national recruit," said Eastern Coach Ken Whalen.
Seneca's DaMarcus Smith, who has committed to U of L, is the highest-profile senior quarterback in the state, even though he missed all of last season with a knee injury.
Smith threw for 3,227 yards and 32 TDs as a sophomore, and ran for almost 500 yards and three TDs.
Louisville is also home to Ballard receiver DeVante Parker and Fern Creek running back Jerrell Moore, both of whom have committed to U of L. They might rack up offensive numbers that could get them Mr. Football notice.
Josh Forrest, a wide receiver who helped Paducah Tilghman to the 3A championship last season and has committed to UK, can't be overlooked.
For career achievement, Bell County's John Dudley Hilton deserves to be in the Mr. Football conversation.
Over the last three years his Bobcats have lost only three games — to Lexington Catholic in 2007, and to Alcoa, Tenn., and Boyle County last year. Those three teams all went on to win state titles.
Hilton was MVP of Bell County's 4A title game victory over Bullitt East in 2008.
The son of Bell County Coach Dudley Hilton, he had more than 100 tackles as a sophomore and 122 last year.
As a running back, he rushed for more than 500 yards and nine TDs last fall. He also did the kicking and long-snapping for the Bobcats.
"He's done just about everything you can do in a high school career," his dad said.
John Dudley, who was a Governor's Scholar this summer, is getting looks from EKU and WKU, but could wind up at West Point.
Offensive linemen have a tough time garnering attention, not to mention serious consideration for Mr. Football. Nevertheless, Bryan Station's Darrian Miller and Lexington Christian's Zach West are big-time prospects.
Miller, 6-6 and 290 pounds, has committed to UK.
"He's a natural," Bryan Station Coach Kenny Turner said. "He's very athletic for a big man, and his motor goes 100 mph all the time."
The 6-5 290-pound West, who helped LCA to the Class A title last year, said he will choose from among UK, Penn State, Tennessee, U of L and Cincinnati.
LCA Coach Ray Graham said West "has everything they're looking for. He's a massive guy coming off the ball, he's got great feet, he's very intelligent, has a great attitude, and he's going to get stronger."