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Football: Ryan QB Spencer Sanders wins Texas AP Player of the Year

Spencer Sanders has been the recipient of an endless string of high-profile awards over the past 12 days. His latest honor solidifies his place among the pantheon of great Texas high school quarterbacks.

The Ryan High School senior and Oklahoma State University signee was named the 2017 Texas Associated Press Sports Editors Player of the Year on Friday. He is the 11th winner of the award and only the second from Ryan to reach this distinction. Scotty Young won in 2009.

A panel of eight sportswriters and editors voted on the award. The 10 offensive and defensive players of the year from each classification on the AP all-state teams were eligible for the honor.

Sanders also was voted as the AP's Class 5A Offensive Player of the Year.

Previous winners of the AP Player of the Year award from the Dallas-Fort Worth area include former Allen star Kyler Murray (2014), Southlake Carroll's Kenny Hill (2012) and Aledo's Johnathan Gray (2011). Former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel won in 2010.

"This feels great," Sanders said. "This means I'm being accepted into a group of athletes who were phenomenal at what they do. They played to the best of their ability and always got the job done. To know I'm within that reach makes me want to train that much harder."

This latest honor is one of six awards Sanders has either won or been in the running for over the past two weeks. He was chosen as the Gatorade Texas Player of the Year on Dec. 11 and Mr. Texas Football by Dave Campbell's Texas Football on Monday. He won the AP's Offensive Player of the Year honor and is also the District 5-5A MVP.

The only award Sanders didn't win was the Landry Award, for which he was a finalist.

One of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in his class, Sanders threw for 3,845 yards, rushed for 1,380 and accounted for 70 touchdowns as a senior while leading 14-1 Ryan to its second straight Class 5A Division I state semifinal. He went 46-6 in 52 career starts. 

He eclipsed 14,000 career yards, 10,329 of which were through the air.

He accounted for 172 total touchdowns to only 23 interceptions and missed only two games in four seasons despite suffering two season-ending knee injuries.

Yet Sanders doesn't make mention of any of it. He grew up in Denton and is the son of Carrie and David Sanders. His older sister, Carissa, is a defender for the University of North Texas soccer team and a former Ryan standout. 

He's quiet and surprisingly humble for a guy who, before signing with OSU on Wednesday, had offers from every Power Five conference and seemingly can pick and choose what he wants to do on the football field.

"Spencer has been the quarterback for Ryan ever since I stepped on this campus," Ryan coach Dave Henigan said. "I'm biased, I guess, but he's the best player in the state. And he has a tremendous work ethic. He had a great run.

"You can't replace a guy like Spencer. You just can't. But he'll be the first to say he couldn't have done any of this without his teammates."

A perfect anecdote that speaks to that quiet and humble nature came from Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, who in a press conference Wednesday spoke about how Sanders spent 2 1/2 hours on Gundy's ranch during his official visit and never said a word to Gundy.

"We spent an hour and a half fishing on three different ponds and he never said a word to me," Gundy said. "He's a great prospect. He's very humble. For all the awards he's received, he never says a word."

Sanders joked that being so quiet near the pond that day was for different reasons.

"When I fish, I like to move around," Sanders said. "[Gundy] had a bobber and a live worm. That's old-fashioned. He wasn't catching anything, so I just kept moving.

"At the end of the day, this award shouldn't just go to me. It should go to my team. They made me the player I am. Without them, I wouldn't receive any of these awards."

STEVE GAMEL can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @NewspaperSteve.

Winners of the Texas AP HS football player of the year

2017: Spencer Sanders, QB, Denton Ryan

2016: Charlie Brewer, QB, Lake Travis

2015: Sam Ehlinger, QB, Austin Westlake

2014: Kyler Murray, QB, Allen

2013: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Whitehouse

2012: Kenny Hill, QB, Southlake Carroll

2011: Johnathan Gray, RB, Aledo

2010: Johnny Manziel, QB, Kerrville Tivy

2009: Scotty Young, QB, Denton Ryan

2008: Garrett Gilbert, QB, Lake Travis

2007: Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Rosenberg Lamar

FEATURED PHOTO: Sports reporter Steve Gamel, second-left, presents Spencer Sanders, third-left, with the 2017 Texas Associated Press Sports Editors player of the year award on behalf of the Associated Press and the Denton Record-Chronicle at the Ryan High School Fieldhouse. Sanders is with Ryan football offensive coordinator Conroy Hines, left, and Ryan football head coach Dave Henigan, right., Friday, December 22, 2017, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC