Tom Landry’s legend was created in Dallas, but Mansfield has certainly been a part of his legacy in recent years.
This season that connection was continued with Mansfield Legacy quarterback/defensive back Jalen Catalon and Mansfield Lake Ridge coach Kirk Thor being nominated for top player and coach, respectively, for the Landry Award.
The Landry Award is named after one of the NFL’s all-time greatest coaches who led the Cowboys to five Super Bowls and two championships, but who also displayed some of the top integrity the world of sports has ever seen. It goes to the player who best represents positive character and leadership attributes over the season. The Landry Award Coach of the Year is given to the coach determined to best exemplify the encouragement of leadership, selflessness, maturity, respect and kindness.
The award recipients are selected by the Dallas-Fort Worth Fellowship of Christian Athletes leadership and The Landry Award Committee.
“Having a representative annually speaks to the amazing student athletes and coaches in Mansfield ISD,” Mansfield ISD Athletic Director Philip O’Neal said. “Mansfield is a place where students are always put first by the community and district, school board, superintendent and leadership council).”
Catalon, a junior, led the Legacy Broncos (12-3) to the Class 5A Division II state semifinals this season. They fell 28-21 to Aledo, which lost 20-19 to College Station in the state final a week later.
He was named first-team 5A All-State at defensive back by the Associated Press Sports Editors after posting 88 tackles, three interceptions, four fumble recoveries, nine tackles for loss, nine pass breakups and four forced fumbles. On offense as a quarterback Catalon passed for 1,119 yards with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions, along with rushing for 1,014 yards and 13 TD.
“Jalen Catalon is one of the best high school football players I ever seen,” O’Neal said. “His team’s success this year has a lot to do with him placing team before self.
“Jalen leads his team by continually selling teammates on preparing to win and trusting the coaches. Truly, if Jalen Catalon is on your team, you have a chance to win every week.”
Thor led the Lake Ridge Eagles (12-2) to the Class 5A Division I Region I finals before being ousted 37-35 by Highland Park and quarterback John Stephen Jones, the 2017 Landry Award winner, who led the Scots to a second straight Class 5A Division I state championship.
“There is no coach anywhere more deserving of an ward with the name Tom Landry than Kirk Thor,” O’Neal said. “He represents everything Tom Landry and the FCA stand for in every way.”
Though neither Catalon nor Thor walked away with the top honor this year, the past two player recipients were both MISD students. Kennedy Brooks, the 2016 winner, is now a running back at the University of Oklahoma and preparing to play Georgia in the College Football Playoffs semifinals on Jan. 1. Jett Duffey, the 2015 winner, is now a quarterback at Texas Tech.
The 2017 coach recipient is Mike DeWitt of Coppell.
Along with Catalon and Jones, other players nominated as finalists this year are McKinney running back Matt Gadek, DeSoto cornerback Byron “BJ” Hanspard, and DentonRyan quarterback Spencer Sanders.
Other nominated coaches this year included Jason Tucker of Haltom, Chad Cole of Frisco Reedy, and Patrick Williams of Dallas Carter.
O’Neal said he expects the connection between the Landry Award and MISD to continue to be strong in years to come because of the support provided by the community to the players and coaches.
“Community and district support translate into success,” he said.
Other Fort Worth-area Landry Award in recent years include Aledo’s Johnathan Gray in 2010 and 2011, Arlington Martin’s Myles Garrett in 2013, and former Grapevine coach Randy Jackson in 2015.