Neavin’s dream becomes reality

Adversity is a line-in-the-sand moment in athletics.

Some athletes crumble while others respond in championship fashion.

Trent Neavin personified the latter.

The Martins Ferry High football star was the target of many Division I recruiters after a stellar junior season. The 6-1, 255-pounder starred on both sides of the ball in leading Dave Bruney’s charges to another post-season berth.

The soft-spoken gridder was viewed as a prototypical I-formation fullback. Neavin’s line in the sand moment entered his life on May 3 as he was preparing for his senior season.

Neavin blew out his Achilles tendon while running on the Purple Riders’ turf, leaving him writhing in pain and uncertainty.

In a matter of seconds, Neavin’s football outlook took on an ominous look. Athletes of less character, commitment, heart and dedication would have tossed in the towel, unwilling to endure the countless hours of rehab and pain needed to return to elite status.

“Trent is simply a great kid. He’s one of, if not the most, dedicated players I have ever been around. He would have had a number of opportunities if it wasn’t for his Achilles tendon rupturing last May,” Bruney said. “Trent is completely selfless. He’s the perfect teammate. He worked so hard for our program that he actually embarrassed kids that had less of a work ethic.

“Trent never missed a single workout in his career. The only day he ever missed was day he had to have surgery on his Achilles tendon,” Bruney continued. “He was in the gym the next day and motivating others to work out.”

Neavin’s dream was to play Division I college football. While that dream was placed in doubt last spring, it was one, however, that became reality recently.

Neavin is headed to Pitt as a preferred walk-on as a fullback candidate. He will be treated on equal terms as the Panthers’ scholarship players.

“I am happy and excited with my decision. I feel Pitt is the ideal situation,” Neavin said. “They invited me up to the Rutgers game and I really enjoyed my visit.

“I wanted to stay close to home and play D-I football. So Pitt is a perfect fit. They utilize the fullback and the coaches are going to give me a shot to compete. I also want to thank Dan Stephens for all his help as well as Coach Bruney and everyone at Martins Ferry who helped me.”

Stephens is a former Linsly School and Pitt standout. He started four years on the defensive line for the Panthers and has maintained close relations with the program.

Pitt went 6-7 last year while gaining a bowl bid under first-year coach Paul Chryst..

“Trent is a powerful blocker who will open holes for running backs. We were well aware of Coach Chryst’s system in Wisconsin and he’s a perfect fit,” Bruney said. “His offense knows how to utilize a fullback. They have had a number of great running backs like Montee Ball.”

Neavin displayed an amazing resolve to get back onto the playing field after his Achilles injury. He invested countless hours working out by himself to regain his playing form.

“I never took a day off after surgery. I rehabbed with Dr. Dave Edwards four days a week. I started walking in mid-July,” Neavin said.

His workouts morphed from July walking into a rigorous August routine of relentless weightlifting and running. He would go to football practice to observe and help younger players, stay after and do his running and lifting before heading to more rehab with Dr. Edwards.

“After school started I wouldn’t get home from football and rehabbing until 7 at night. I cannot thank Dr. Edwards enough.”

Neavin’s dogged determination landed him on the playing field for the final two games of the season. However, both resulted in losses, ending any hopes of extending Neavin’s career into the post-season.

Although his senior season didn’t play out as he had hoped, Neavin did enough on and off the field to attract Pitt’s interest.

“It wouldn’t shock me if he’s in Pitt’s two-deep roster by his sophomore year,” Bruney said. “I usually wouldn’t make a statement like that but Trent might be the hardest working player I have ever coached and I have been at this 41 years.”

Neavin will report to Pitt June 25 for summer workouts with the scholarship players, unlike normal walk-ons.

“My goal is to earn a scholarship and I feel confident of making that happen,”?Neavin said.

Trent is the type of student-athlete you wish all your players were like. He not only works hard in athletics but also in the classroom (3.7 GPA),” Bruney said. “Trent is driven, goal-oriented and unselfish. He set a great example for our players on how he handled his adversity. Our younger kids started emulating him.”

Trent is the son of Katie Neavin. They reside on U.S. 250.

“I want to thank Coach Dave (Bruney) for all his has done for Trent the last 5 years. He is a big reason for Trent being able to go to Pitt,” Katie Neavin said. “Trent is my pride and joy. I am excited and proud of this opportunity. It is a perfect situation for him.”