By Bill Foley
Josh Neil is making up for lost time.
That’s why the Butte High senior was out on Naranche Stadium recently with a snow shovel. Neil and junior teammate Tucker Winston cleared off paths wide enough for a running lane so they could work on their sprints.
Neil is working hard while looking forward to the upcoming track season. He is also planning for career as a college football player.
That path came clear early Wednesday morning when Neil signed and then sent off an National Letter of Intent to play football for Rocky Mountain College.
“I’m pumped,” Neil said. “I always knew I was going to play. I just didn’t know where.”
That “where” was decided during a recent recruiting trip to the Billings school.
“I went down there and their coaching staff was pretty cool,” Neil said. “They have a good culture.”
Neil said the Battlin’ Bears are looking at him as a running back or cornerback, those are two positions he excelled at while playing for the Bulldogs.
Neil ran for 299 yards on just 42 carries last fall. His injury came four days after he rushed for 104 yards at Billings West. He also caught 13 passes out of the back field. It would have been 14 if an 80-yard catch and run for a touchdown wasn’t called back by a penalty in Bozeman.
The speedy Neil was also a shut-down defender for the Butte High defense.
Bulldog coach Arie Grey praised Neil, a player the Bulldogs missed sorely on both sides of the ball down the stretch
“It’s exciting,” Grey said of Neil’s signing with the Battlin’ Bears. “There is not another kid who works as hard as he does”
Grey said Neil, who sees out of just one eye, became an extra coach once he was injured.
“He’s just an awesome guy who works hard,” Grey said.
One of the top moments of the season came in Butte High’s last regular-season game at Missoula Big Sky. While Neil wasn’t cleared to play yet, he suited up. When the Bulldogs went into “victory formation” at the end of the playoff-clinching win, all the Butte High players and fans erupted as Neil went onto the field for the final snaps.
Neil said not being able to play during Butte High’s playoff run was “bittersweet.”
“I wanted to play in the playoff game, but I never got in,” He said.
Now, Neil, who earned Academic All-State honors again in the fall with a 3.8 GPA, is ready to close out his career at Butte High in style on the track. He’s also ready to start off his Battlin’ Bear years on the right foot.
“I’m full go,” Neil said.
Neil plans to study health and human performance or biology at Rocky. His goal is to become a physical therapist.
In the meantime, you just might see him running down a shoveled path on the snow-covered Naranche Stadium.