When all-district teams are announced at the end of the high school football season, the Offensive MVP award, like the Heisman Trophy, tends to go to the most productive quarterback or running back for that season, and somewhat less often to a wide receiver. A tight end or fullback winning the award is exceedingly rare, but an offensive lineman winning Offensive MVP is simply unheard of. Just don't tell that to Garrett Neuman or the coaches of District 29-4A.
Neuman is a multiple-year starter at right tackle for Medina Valley High School, which is about five miles west of San Antonio and reports an enrollment that puts it among the 10-15 smallest football schools in Class 4A. He earned first team all-district honors as a junior but he carried a lot of bad weight that kept him from being as dominant a run blocker as he could have been. As Bob Herb, Medina Valley's longtime offensive line coach, explains: "His junior year he was good but couldn't move much (he weighed 330)."
Much like a baseball player's first stint in AA ball, a high school football
player's junior season can have a disproportionate effect on his reputation
with college scouts. If a player doesn't show himself to be good enough as a
junior for a program to recruit him, some schools - especially those that place
an emphasis on early offers and zero in on their top targets a year or more
before that class's signing day - won't bother to check in on him again
when he's a senior. Of course, the minor league baseball player who struggles
in his first exposure to the more advanced AA level can always be sent down to
Class A to iron out his deficiencies, or repeat AA the following season. The
high school football player who doesn't attract heavy attention from colleges
after his junior season will have the spring and summer to get better (and to
try and impress coaches at summer camps), then he will have to put it all
together his senior year to impress what schools are monitoring him.
Garrett Neuman showed a good level of aggressiveness in his junior film, and at 6-4 and 330+ pounds, he was big enough to overpower pretty much anyone lined up in front of him, but when asked to pull or block at the second level, he was less dominating and more plodding. He needed to shed some weight, and after the 2011 football season he went to work on accomplishing that goal. "He worked his tail off in the weight room and on the track", says Herb. "He cut 20 pounds and got a lot stronger. No one has better work habits than him." According to Herb, Neuman currently weighs 311 pounds and might get back up to 315 or so during power lifting season.
I watched his junior highlights over the summer and wasn't impressed enough to make any notes on him at that time, but when I checked on him again recently and saw his senior highlights, I was very surprised. He looked like a different player. He was just as aggressive as he had been before but showed a short area quickness that was largely absent from his junior film. He looked better when pulling and got to the second level much faster than before. If Ja'Braylin Thomas had Neuman's mean streak he might be a five-star prospect and not a three-star Houston commit (not that there's anything wrong with being a U of H commit).
He put his re-shaped physique to good use in the 2012 season and was the key offensive lineman for a wing-T attack that produced an average of 317 rushing yards and 39 points per game. After the season he was unanimously voted as the district's Offensive MVP, a very remarkable achievement for a lineman. (Seriously, can anyone else name an o-lineman who won a district's Offensive MVP award? Maybe Leonard Davis when he starred for Class A Wortham? I've never heard of that happening before.) "It was an honor he deserved," says Herb, who notes the team's offensive production and explains, "About 80% of our offense was run behind him."
With barely a month left until National Signing Day, Neuman's hard work, strong senior season, and all-district recognition by opposing coaches hasn't yet borne the fruit of big-time college offers. Herb doesn't merely hope that his young charge will one day play for a Division I team, he is adamant that Neuman should be given a chance to play at that level. "He needs to play D1 football. He deserves it."
Herb knows a D1 lineman when he sees one. One of his former players at Medina Valley is Patrick Hoog, a three-star lineman who signed with Oklahoma State in 2008, and who Rivals ranked among the top 40 guards in that class. (Hoog later transferred to UTSA and was a starter at left tackle as a junior and senior.) Herb says, "Garrett is without a doubt a D1 player. I've been coaching 18 years here at Medina Valley and Garrett is by far the best I've had during this time. No one finishes blocks like he does." Translation: Garrett is better than a former three-star guard prospect (a player good enough to start for a WAC team), and it's not particularly close.
The recruiting services have obviously not talked to Garrett Neuman's position coach, because he does not have a profile on Rivals, 247Sports, ESPN's Recruiting Nation, or Scout. This seems absurd given his senior film and the hundreds of frankly marginal talents who do have such profiles. When I asked Coach Herb about Neuman's recruitment two weeks ago, he said, "Garrett has received interest from every D3 you can imagine, a couple D2s, and UTSA." UTSA's offensive line coach invited Neuman to two games during the season but he has not been offered by the Roadrunners, or anyone else.
There's one school he hopes to hear from, though the prospect of that happening seems very unlikely. "He loves UT. His original goal was to play there but they haven't shown any interest", says Herb. This isn't surprising considering the offensive lineman already committed to Texas in the 2013 class, not to mention the pronounced lack of exposure Neuman seems to have gotten. With where things stand now, he could end up signing with UTSA, Hardin-Simmons, or anywhere in between. Herb again: "Some program will get a steal if they find him now."
If anything keeps Garrett Neuman from playing D1 college football, it won't be his grades; He has tested well on the ACT and his grades put him in the top 10% of his class. If Herb has anything to say about it, Neuman's football skills won't be what keeps him from Division I either. "We run the wing-T so we don't do a lot of pass pro. That being said, we work it versus our number one D-line every week and he's the best we have. He understands leverage, balance, and he actually has good feet. I know he will get better and better at the next level. I expect him to play guard [in college]."
You could say playing on the offensive line is in Garrett Neuman's blood. The offensive line coach who preceded Bob Herb at Medina Valley: Neuman's grandfather. There are signs that coaching might be in his future as well. Though his high school football career is over, he has asked to stay in athletics class in order to "work with our junior tackle and make him better. It's just the kind of kid he is." If things go Neuman's way, it will soon be his turn to work with upperclassmen. Hopefully D1 upperclassmen.
Garrett Neuman's senior season highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvIgrNJpTAc