The Times Record will host NFL player and All-American Razorback Hunter Henry as the featured guest speaker at the second annual Best of River Valley Preps Awards Banquet Friday, June 8, at the Fort Smith Convention Center. The event brings together players, families, friends and business leaders to honor the area’s top high school student-athletes in 17 sports for the 2017-18 school year.

Best of River Valley Preps awards annually recognizes more than 400 All-Area athletes, as well as special honors for the top players in each sport, top coaches and top male and female athletes of the year.

“We are thrilled to have Hunter Henry on board for this year's banquet," said Times Record Publisher Crystal Costa. "Hunter was always so much fun to watch as a huge playmaker for the Razorbacks and it’s been great to see him rise through the ranks in professional football. He was the epitome of the student-athlete during his playing days in Arkansas and serves as a great example for our young people."

The awards banquet, presented by the Times Record and sponsored by Arvest, Taco Bell and Shoppers Value Foods, honors the top performers from 17 varsity sports. Best of River Valley Preps athletes may attend the event free of charge. The banquet is also open to family, friends and the general public.

“At Shoppers Value Foods, we believe in supporting our local schools in their academic and extracurricular activities. The recognition these students receive and deserve will help develop their leadership skills and their future careers in all of our communities,” said Chuck Combs, president, C.V.’s Foodliner Inc.

Rodney Shepard, president and CEO of Arvest Bank of Fort Smith and River Valley, said that the commitment these students have demonstrated is something to celebrate.

“Today’s student-athletes dedicate a lot of time and energy to being the best they can be, and we celebrate that kind of commitment here at Arvest,” Shepard said. “Because of all the hard work they’ve put in and the sacrifices they’ve made, we are happy to help recognize and reward them for their efforts.”

Hunter Henry, born in Little Rock, is a tight end for the Los Angeles Chargers. He played college football at Arkansas, where he was a consensus All-American and won the John Mackey Award as the top tight end in the nation. He was selected by San Diego in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft with the 35th overall pick.

“He’s a great example to all these young people in terms of knowing that dreams do come true,” Shepard said. “He grew up in Arkansas like most of them have, and he also used athletics to open a lot of doors in life. Hopefully these student-athletes can learn from the message that gives them.”

Taco Bell has also got on board this year with support of this growing community event.

“Taco Bell is proud to sponsor and support our local schools and athletes through the River Valley Best of Preps. We appreciate all the coverage the Southwest Times Record gives to these outstanding organizations and their accomplishments year round,” said Tina Reagan, president & COO, K-Mac Enterprises.