Bell County’s Daniel Thomas named 2023’s Kentucky Mr. Football

Bell County’s Daniel Thomas has been named 2023’s Mr. Football by the Kentucky Football Coaches Association.

Thomas, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound running back/linebacker, set single-season state records for rushing yards (3,817) and total points scored (373) in helping the Bobcats earn district and region titles on the way to the Class 3A state finals, where they finished runner-up to Christian Academy-Louisville after a 41-16 loss. Thomas rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown against CAL in the finals.

“It was beyond a blessing to even be put in the same sentence as the title of Mr. Ky football, but it is absolutely overwhelming to know that the coaches association chose me to represent the state for the 2023 football season!” Thomas told the Herald-Leader via direct message Saturday morning after the announcement.

The KFCA also announced Hart County’s Chad Griffin as the Jimmie Reed Coach of the Year Award winner. Hart went 13-1 in Class 3A with district and region titles. They lost 30-28 to Thomas’ Bell County team in the state semifinals.

Thomas’ single-season rushing mark topped a record that had stood since 1969 as he surpassed Bath County’s Frank Jones (3,361 yards) during the Bobcats’ region championship win against East Carter. He also broke the points record of Wayne County’s Braedon Sloan (336) that had been in place since 2019.

Thomas’ 54 rushing TDs in 2023 tie him for second on the all-time list with Boone County’s Shaun Alexander and Shelby Valley’s Dusty Hall. Wayne County’s Sloan owns that record with 56 TDs.

Thomas has not made his college plans yet. He holds a number of Division II, III and NAIA offers from schools including Union College, Kentucky Wesleyan, Centre College, Lindsey Wilson, Notre Dame College, Georgetown College, Presbyterian College and the University of the Cumberlands.

Earlier this week, the KFCA named nine finalists for this year’s Mr. Football award, which traditionally goes to Kentucky high school football’s most outstanding senior as deemed by voters each season. Other finalists were CAL’s Cole Hodge, Boyle County’s Avery Bodner and Sage Dawson, Mayfield’s Zane Cartwright, Male’s Max Gainey, Raceland’s Noah Wallace and Lexington Christian’s Cutter Boley and Brady Hensley.

Prior to the state finals, Hodge had been announced as the KFCA’s Class 3A player of the year. This is the second time the KFCA has named a Mr. Football out of the same class as its player of the year award winner. In 2020, Beechwood’s Cam Hergott earned Mr. Football honors over that year’s 2A player of the year, Kaiya Sheron of Somerset. Dawson, Gainey and Wallace also earned their respective class’s player of the year awards from the KFCA.

Earlier this month, LCA’s Boley earned the Louisville Quarterback Club’s Paul Hornung Award as its top player. The annual Gatorade player of the year award has not yet been announced and is not restricted to seniors.

Since 2019, the KFCA has named its own Mr. Football based on a vote from its membership. The historic Mr. Football honor that was chosen by members of the Associated Press from 1986 to 2021 ended abruptly last year along with the AP’s annual all-state teams recognition. Those honors no longer exist.

Bell County’s Daniel Thomas runs for a 36-yard touchdown during the Class 3A state championship game against Christian Academy-Louisville.
Bell County’s Daniel Thomas runs for a 36-yard touchdown during the Class 3A state championship game against Christian Academy-Louisville.

Kentucky’s Mr. Football

Award winners since the KFCA began naming them in 2019.

2019: Michael Mayer, Covington Catholic*

2020: Cam Hergott, Beechwood (The AP Mr. Football was split between Hergott and Frederick Douglass’ Jager Burton).

2021: Isaac Dixon, Belfry*

2022: Travis Egan, Bullitt East*

2023: Daniel Thomas, Bell County

* The media’s AP Mr. Football concurred with the KFCA except where noted. The AP award ended in 2021.