|Saturday, January 4
Updated: January 6, 12:01 AM ET
Leak crowned prep king, now what? Wait a day ...
By Wayne Drehs
SAN ANTONIO -- Forgive North Carolina high school quarterback Chris Leak for his inability to avoid the limelight.
On the eve of his much-anticipated college announcement, Leak again found himself in the center of the spotlight Saturday night, winning the Ken Hall High School Player of the Year award, formerly known as the high school Heisman.
"It is truly an honor," Leak said at a banquet to honor the 78 All-Americans who will compete in Sunday's U.S. Army All-American Game on ESPN2. "All the hard work that I've been putting in since last spring, all the extra practices and repetitions with my teammates, the summer camps, this makes you feel like all that hard work has paid off."
At halftime of Sunday's game, Leak is scheduled to announce which of his final five schools -- Florida, Florida State, Iowa, Texas or USC -- he will attend next fall. The imminent decision was a hot topic at the banquet, with San Antonio mayor Ed Garza using part of his welcoming speech to offer a suggestion.
"I was going to try and talk Chris Leak into Texas A&M," Garza said to the audience. "But I think I might be a little late."
Leak, who holds the national high school record for touchdown passes with 185, completed 321-of-556 passes for 5,000 yards and 61 touchdowns this past season while leading Charlotte's Independence High to its third straight state championship.
He beat quarterback/defensive back Tom Zbikowski (Buffalo Grove, Ill.) as well as six other finalists for the award, which last season was won by current Florida State running back Lorenzo Booker.
"It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it," said Leak's father, Curtis, who erupted from his chair to lead a standing ovation when the winner was announced. "I thought he had a chance, but this is a total surprise. This is the big one."
Florida quarterback Rex Grossman's announcement Saturday that he will forgo his senior season and apply for the NFL draft fueled speculation that Leak will commit to the Gators, where he potentially could play next season. The Charlotte Observer, citing unnamed sources close to Leak, said Sunday that Leak is expected to choose Florida.
Other strong candidates include Iowa, Leak's last official visit two weeks ago, Florida State, a school with a shaky quarterback situation following the dismissal of Adrian McPherson and USC, where Leak could play under offensive coordinator Norm Chow, the 2002 winner of the Frank Broyles Award, given to the nation's top assistant coach.
On Saturday, Leak did very little to reveal his decision.
"I pretty much know what I'm going to do," Leak said. "And everyone will find out tomorrow. I'm excited about it."
Two other players in the game, Reggie Bush, a running back from Spring Valley, Calif., and Prescott Burgess, a defensive back from Warren, Ohio, will also reveal their college plans during the telecast.
The announcements will all be oral commitments, as binding national letters of intent cannot be signed until Feb. 5.
It was long believed that Chris would commit to Tennessee, where older brother C.J. is a backup quarterback. But Chris removed the Vols from his list a little more than a month ago, leaving the door open to his other five finalists.
Leak's father said that Chris made up his mind on Wednesday and will reveal a replica helmet and baseball cap during the telecast to show where he's going.
"My Dad keeps telling me that this will be a real lift off my shoulders," Leak said. "But I've actually enjoyed the whole process."
Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.