Singleton Jr. is competing for Paralympic gold

Jerome Singleton Jr. recently competed in the 2007 Parapan American Games in Brazil and won two medals, a bronze and a silver. Singleton was born without a fibula and had his right foot amputated as an infant. That hasn't stopped him from competing.

Gerry Melendez/gmelendez@thestat

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After a decade toiling away at the microphone without much recognition, Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton are breaking through in a big way.

Two of country's leading men nabbed their first Country Music Association Awards entertainer of the year nominations Tuesday, upsetting recent trends and leading a popular pack with five nominations apiece. They join previous entertainer winners Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban in the CMA's most prestigious category. Paisley and Swift also are up for five awards.

"To be honest, I secretly hoped that I'd get this nomination one day, but I never thought I actually would," Shelton said in a statement. "After 10 years of watching my friends receive this incredible honor, I got pretty used to being a cheerleader for them, ya know?"

He began receiving more nominations last year, winning two awards at the 2010 CMAs. But his move into television as a coach on NBC's "The Voice," an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry and the success of his single "Honey Bee" -- not to mention his marriage to Miranda Lambert -- has helped bring him to the forefront of country music.

Like Shelton, Aldean has been slowly gaining awards show attention the last few years after hitting the trifecta of arena tours, platinum albums and radio airplay. But his previous nominations pale compared to the ones he earned Tuesday morning. Along with entertainer of the year, he took nominations in three coveted categories -- album of the year for "My Kinda Party," single of the year for "Don't You Wanna Stay," featuring Kelly Clarkson, and male vocalist of the year.

Paisley and Carrie Underwood will host the award show for a fourth time live Nov. 9 from Nashville on ABC.