LITTLE ROCK, Ark - Drew Brees, Super Bowl winning quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, will be the keynote speaker for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's All Arkansas Preps awards banquet, sponsored by St. Vincent. Brees will speak at the event and take part in presenting the athletes' awards.
The banquet will be held on Saturday, June 7, in the Wally Allen Ballroom of the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. The event will honor more than 300 high school athletes from across the state who have excelled in one of nine sports. Keith Jackson, a native Arkansan and NFL star, and David Bazzel, former Arkansas Razorback and current radio co-host, will have important roles in the program at the banquet.
All Arkansas Preps was started by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before the 2012-2013 season and the end-of-the-year awards banquet featured keynote speaker Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
All Arkansas Preps celebrates high school athletes from across the state and their accomplishments in nine different sports. An editorial committee from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette picks first, second and sophomore male teams in football, basketball, baseball and soccer, and female teams in basketball, softball, volleyball and soccer. Male/female teams in golf, tennis and track are chosen through Overall and Meet of Champs statewide competition. The committee polls coaches and media members from across the state for team recommendations, taking into account individual statistics and team success from the previous season.
"The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has a long history of honoring athletes in our home state, but this takes it to a new level. I am personally excited about our role in this great event that will recognize the best high school athletes," said Wally Hall, Assistant Managing Editor/Sports for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The team selections will appear in the newspaper and online at www.allarkansaspreps.com
Here is a tentative schedule of the announcements: Golf: Nov. 10; Tennis: Nov. 17; Volleyball: Nov. 24; Football: Dec. 29; Basketball: April 13; Track: May 27; Soccer: May 29; Softball and Baseball: May 30.
A special section highlighting all the teams and the event will be published on Friday, June 14.
Student/athletes that make up each sports teams (first, second and sophomore) will receive free admission to the event. More than a thousand people will attend, including student/athletes, coaches, parents and sponsors. Brees will present the Outstanding Player Award in each sport (male and female) as well as the Overall Male Athlete, Overall Female Athlete and Coach of the Year.
Other awards will be given to honor special athletes that have made an impact on and off the field. St. Vincent will present an award to a student athlete who has overcome a health challenge to excel in one of the nine sports.
"Nominations submitted by coaches and the general public last year told incredible stories of young athletes who demonstrated remarkable drive and commitment to overcome physical limitations caused by serious medical illnesses to not only be present, but to excel as athletes and as leaders on their respective teams," said Peter Banko, president and CEO of St. Vincent. "I expect this year will be no different. We'll have some difficult decisions to make to find a single athlete, among the nominees, who best demonstrated courage in the face of adversity to excel. The St. Vincent award honors the student who proves that an illness or injury doesn't have to mean the end of something they are driven to accomplish." Banko will present the award at the banquet.
The P.A.R.K Education Award will recognize one athlete who has made great achievements on the field and in the classroom. The Hussman Community Award will be presented to an athlete who has a great impact on their community. All those honored will be chosen by committee from entries submitted by high school coaches and the general public.
The All Arkansas Preps event is also sponsored by Academy Sports, Arkansas Select Buick GMC Dealers, First Security Bank, Dillard's and Deltic Timber.
Depending on demand and availability, general admission tickets could become available after May 1.