From before the time he could walk, Aaron Neier was destined to become a football player.
And now, the Borgia 2012 graduate will be getting the chance to play in college after Neier inked a letter of intent to play for the William Jewell College Cardinals.
“I’m super excited about William Jewell because I not only get to do what I love (majors can change), but I get to play football and their academics are bar none,” Neier said.
Neier played offensive and defensive line positions for the Borgia Knights, who went 12-1 this past season. At William Jewell, Neier expects to be a defensive end. That’s the same position he earned Missouri Football Coaches Association Class 4 all-state honors in 2011.
“I’m actually the smallest defensive lineman on the recruiting roster right now,” Neier said. “They’re trying to fit me in at defensive end.”
During his senior season, Neier posted 71 total tackles with five sacks and fumble recovery. And frequently Aaron was in the middle of the action.
“I’ve enjoyed being a leader of the team, a captain and being able to pave the way for everybody,” Neier said, “I loved every second of it with school, clubs and everything else I’ve been involved in.”
But Neier is quick to spread the credit to his fellow players.
“I wasn’t the only one,” Aaron said. “Charlie Walde, Dallas Lynn and all of the other seniors stepped up this past year. We have a lot of really good juniors coming up. Robbie Vossbrink is a very vocal leader and a lot of the linemen are going to be experienced.”
To say that Neier has grown up with football as a projected sport is an understatement. Besides having relatives who have played for the Knights, Aaron was given plenty of chances to watch the Knights play during his formative years.
“It’s absolutely wonderful to say I could be a part of an undefeated team,” Neier said. “I think back to the team with Colin Chalk and Jeff Klott when I was an eighth-grader and I saw them playing MICDS and it went into overtime. I was standing barely above the fence. Just being able to grow up idolizing those guys. Brock Olivo sent me a letter the other day. He’s coaching at Coastal Carolina right now. That meant the world to me. I’m wasn’t graced with the Kent Skornia or Brock Olivo award this year, but just to know someone is watching and still supporting the school even with all of his successes and accomplishments, is breathtaking.”
Neier grew up listening to stories told by his relatives, and his father, former Missourian Sports Editor John Neier, who told him about players such as Olivo, Skornia and others who have come through the area schools. Of those, Olivo and Skornia have made perhaps the biggest impact.
“I always base my opinions on the photo of him (Olivo) walking into the end zone in the trophy case from the ’93 championship team,” Aaron said. “It was awesome.”
Neier said it’s been special to have been part of the Borgia football tradition.
“Kent Skornia came last year and talked to us at the banquet,” Neier said. “This year, Charlie Varni came up and he had a speech for us. He talked to us about Kent and Brock. He’s a great supporter, too. I love the fact of being able to grow up and idolize those guys. You always can say you idolize NFL guys, but when they’re from your hometown, it’s a little bit different.”
Aaron certainly has added his name to Borgia’s long tradition as well. He’s helped the team to break in a new turf field. The Knights have played the last two seasons on it.
“I love it,” Aaron said. “I actually took a poll and did a little math and our winning percentage at home is 93 percent from last year and this year. The only loss was to Southern Boone, which was in the last seconds. That’s huge. It’s a great place to play. Having the home field advantage is great, bar none.”
He also enjoyed being able to help Borgia Head Coach Dale Gildehaus reach the 200-win plateau.
“That was an emotional moment for all of us,” Neier said. “Being there for Coach Gildehaus and being one of his players was a great feeling. It was great to give him a big hug. It’s been great with all of the coaches for that matter. I know Coach (Dave) Haddox has been with him for 23 years. The funny thing is that Coach Haddox has coached me for all eight years I’ve played football. He coached me in little league, too. He’s been a big mentor for me as well as Coach (Glenn) Roehrig. I couldn’t do it without them. They’ve been there for me. They’ve been supportive and kick in the behind when I’ve needed it.”
Neier said there have been many other great memories as well.
“One highlight had to be beating St. Dominic our junior year,” Neier said. “They came in with one loss and we barely were over .500. We sent them home and we got to move onto the playoffs.”
Another highlight was the 2011 run to the state quarterfinals.
“This year, going 12-1 was absolutely amazing, especially coming after the jamboree when we all thought we were going to be a little shoddy this year,” Neier said.
And there have been some humorous moments as well, such as when he ended up the only player still singing the school song with the crowd after the rest had been called into a huddle.
“That was a tad bit embarrassing!” exclaimed Neier. “I loved being a part of the crowd at the end of the game. Seeing them come out and support us was just such a great thing because it’s always been basketball. This year they actually came to our away games. Seeing a big crowd, especially at MICDS where they didn’t have enough stands for us, it was great.”
Neier is thrilled to be able to play at William Jewell.
“They made the switch to Division II and they’re in the GLVC,” Neier said. “I really think William Jewell is on the rise with their football program. They went 4-6 last year and lost to Rolla by one. They play great football.”
He’s also pleased to be able to get some financial support for continuing to play football.
“It’s a huge help to Mom and Dad,” Neier said. “And it’s a huge compliment to all of the coaches I’ve played for and people I’ve played with because they’ve been with me all the way.”
Aaron has listed his major as biology, but hopes to get into physical therapy.
“I plan on majoring in biology,” he said. “They have a pre-professional physical therapy program which I would love to be a part of. You’ve got to choose between chemistry, biology or biochemistry and math really isn’t my strong suit, so biology is what I’m doing.”
Right now, he’s considering secondary education and business as well if his first choice doesn’t work.
He’s also considered the potential for journalism.
“I love to write, too, so it’s always a possibility,” Aaron said.
Through everything, Neier is thankful to have all of the support he’s received.
“Thank you to all the people who have watched me, helped me and led me to where I’m at now,” Neier said.