As we enter the back half of what is turning out to be another successful athletic year, the All-Texomaland All Star Preps Awards Banquet continues to get bigger and honor more of the area's top competitors.

In addition to the program that has become a staple of the event the previous three years, the 2020 version will see several changes, including the celebration of athletes in Bryan County.

Finalists for all of the sports from north of the Red River will be invited and the Players of the Year in those categories will be announced.

Also being honored with All-Texomaland status beginning this year will be those competing in the sports of powerlifting and high school fishing, which is offered by almost every area high school. For football comes the return of the Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Awards. Others to be honored going forward include the top band, top cheer and top mascots.

“Live events are part of our strategy to evolve into more than just a printed newspaper. The Herald Democrat has been covering local athletics since our founding in 1879, and continues to this very day,” Senior Group Publisher Nate Rodriguez said. “Unlike in 1879 when we were just a printed newspaper covering sports, today we use several platforms to go where our audience wants us to be. Those still include the printed paper, but also our website, social media channels and actual events.

“We find it an honor to celebrate alongside our sponsors the amazing accomplishments that our high school athletic community accomplishes day in and out. We are proud to be able to bring a nationally recognized celebrity that will motivate and speak on overall sportsmanship to these amazing young men and women.”

Headlining all of this will be Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame running back and the NFL's all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith as the featured speaker for the fourth annual banquet on June 12 and will help the Herald Democrat honor all these worthy selections in the Texoma area.

Presented by the Herald Democrat and sponsored by Texoma Medical Center, All-Texomaland celebrates the accomplishments of more than 300 Grayson County athletes and coaches. Awards will be presented to the Player of the Year in each sport, as well as overall awards for Male Athlete of the Year, Female Athlete of the Year and Coach of the Year. All-Texomaland athletes are invited to attend for free.

TMC is once again returning as the title sponsor for the event.

“After what has been a tremendous year for area schools, Texoma Medical Center is proud to continue to support our local student athletes, coaches and programs,” TMC CEO Ron Seal said. “We look forward to recognizing them and their accomplishments.”

Smith was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2010 as the culmination of an outstanding 15-year career, all but two of those seasons with the Cowboys, who drafted him 17th overall. He is the all-time leading rusher with 18,355 yards — nearly 2,000 ahead of second place — on a record 4,409 carries and also has most rushing touchdowns in league history with 164, a total that is second for overall TDs behind only Jerry Rice.

As part of “The Triplets” along with fellow Hall of Famers Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, he helped the Cowboys win three Super Bowls in a four-year span in the early 1990s and was the MVP of Super Bowl XXVIII when he ran 30 times for 132 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-13 victory against the Buffalo Bills. It capped a year when he was named MVP of the regular season.

Smith was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, a four-time first-team All-Pro pick and the 1990 Offensive Rookie of the Year. Smith had 11 straight 1,000-yard seasons, a league record that including leading the NFL four times, and three other years with at least 930 yards.

He is a member of the Cowboys Ring of Honor and while the franchise doesn't retire numbers, his No. 22 has not been issued since he stepped away from the game. This past season, he was named one of the NFL's top 100 players as part of the league's centennial celebration.

In college, Smith was seventh in the 1989 Heisman Trophy voting, an All-American and the SEC MVP in his junior season and was a three-team All-SEC selection at Florida.

Outside of football, Smith and his wife, Pat, have been involved with a charity they founded in 2002 that provides educational opportunities and experiences for children in North Texas. He was also the champion on the third season of Dancing with the Stars.

“We are excited to welcome another Hall of Famer to Texoma and one of the best football players of all-time to this event,” Herald Democrat Sports Editor Jason Della Rosa said. “He is a great role model for these standout student-athletes both on and off the field and the latest addition to our impressive previous speakers in Pudge Rodriguez, Jason Witten and Sean Lee.”

The event will be held at Woodlawn County Club from 6-9 p.m. on June 12. Since it has grown each year, event organizers wanted to expand the space to allow for more honorees and guests and Woodlawn Country Club fit that criteria. Guests will experience an exciting show, dinner and awards under a beautifully constructed, decorated and cooled tent, just for this event.

More information about the event can be found by visiting heralddemocrat.com/alltexomaland. All-Texomaland athletes will receive a letter in the coming months and as they are recognized through the end of the school year with instructions on how to claim their free ticket.

General admission tickets may be purchased for $60. General admission ticket includes dinner, awards ceremony and a question-and-answer portion by Smith.

General admission seating is first come, first served in proximity to the speaker. General public tickets will go on sale at a later date after the All-Texomaland athletes and their guests have reserved their tickets. Seating is limited.

For more information or to learn about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Rodriguez at 903-893-8181 or nrodriguez@gatehousemedia.com.