OVAC Game even more special for Ferry’s Neavin

BETHANY – The majority of local football players grow up dreaming of one day being chosen for the Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Football Classic.

Whether it’s because they’ve attended the game since they were young or they just want one last chance to put the pads on and play or something totally different, the reasons are plentiful.

However, the dream only becomes a reality for 66 players – 33 in each state – each summer, which adds to the prestige of being chosen.

Martins Ferry’s Trent Neavin is one of the feel-good stories of all-star week and the route he took to being one of the key defensive cogs for the Buckeye State this week is much different than most of his teammates.

“It’s definitely nice to get one more high school game,” Neavin said during media day earlier this week at Bethany College. “This is really an honor to be here. I remember coming to this game when I was freshman and I just dreamed that one day I’d get the chance to be on that field.”

It’s an honor that most would have considered a lock for Neavin after his junior season.

Playing at fullback and linebacker, Neavin was catching the eye of several Division I schools with his chiseled frame and foot speed.

However, during just a normal workout in early May, Neavin ruptured his Achilles tendon.

After getting his Achilles repaired and rehabbing like crazy, Neavin worked his way back onto the field for the Purple Riders in Week 9.

Despite playing in just two games during the season, Neavin signed a National Letter of Intent to be a preferred walk on at Pitt in early April.

A few weeks later, Neavin learned he’d been chosen to play in this Sunday’s 68th annual Mumley Classic.

However, a handful of years ago, the NCAA started allowing incoming freshmen, at Division I schools, to enroll in their respective institutions early for the summer term and begin conditioning with their future teammates.

That change caused many prep football all-star games – such as the Ohio North-South and Big 33 – to change their dates to accommodate the high number of Division I athletes in both games.

The OVAC elected not to change its game because overall the NCAA’s decision didn’t affect nearly as many kids in the immediate area.

This, however, is one of those years and Neavin is one of those kids.

Upon learning of his selection to the game, Neavin contacted the members of the Panthers’ staff who had recruited him and told them of his desire to play in the game.

“Some of the coaches weren’t too happy,” Neavin admitted. “They really didn’t want me to come, but then I talked to Coach (Paul) Chryst and he was fine with me coming.”

The decision to play in the game wasn’t that difficult for Neavin once he had the blessing of the Panthers’ head coach.

“Coach Chryst understood my situation,” Neavin said.

Seeing that he had most of his senior season taken away from him due to his injury, Chryst was highly sympathetic.

“Since I hadn’t gotten to play a lot during the season, he thought it would be nice for me to come out and do this,” Neavin said. “Plus, I think going through these two-a-day practices will help better prepare me for what’s ahead.”

Unlike the rest of his Ohio teammates, Neavin won’t have a chance to go home and relax for a few days before heading off to school.

You see, Neavin is already enrolled at Pitt and has spent most of the summer there taking classes and beginning the process of preparing himself for the rigors of Division I football.

“I go back right after the game ends Sunday,” Neavin said. “Once I got on campus, the coaches kind of wanted me to just stay, but they eventually decided it would be alright.”

On top of not going home for an extended period of time Sunday night, Neavin has also been doing some homework during his stint at Bethany.

“I talked to my professor and she gave me the work to do online,” Neavin said. “Things are going really well for me up there. I’m enjoying it. I feel like I’ll definitely be in the mix down the road.”

So, the big question for Neavin is: how’s the Achilles?

“It’s not 100 percent, but I can definitely play fine,” Neavin said.

“I’m not as fast as I used to be, but I can fly off the ball, hit people and do everything else. I don’t even think about the injury. I just play.”

Neavin is one of three Riders on the Ohio squad. He’s joined by Zach Coole and Sean McGee.

“It’s great being able to play with my high school teammates one more time and all of the new guys from the other schools that we played against or followed during the season,” Neavin said. “We’ve become really good friends already.”

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com