|Saturday, January 4
Updated: January 6, 10:25 AM ET
Leak crowned prep king and chooses Florida
By Wayne Drehs
Special to ESPN.com
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 announced his intentions to attend Florida. Other strong candidates included 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.
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."
Two other players in the game, Reggie Bush, a running back from Spring Valley, Calif., and Prescott Burgess, a defensive back from Warren, Ohio, revealed their college plans during the telecast. Bush chose USC, while Burgess selected Michigan.
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.
"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.
ESPN.com is following quarterback Chris Leak on his journey from high school to the college ranks. Leak is writing a diary about his recruitment, and there will be weekly updates on the recruiting process through Signing Day on Feb. 5, 2003.