NEW PALESTINE — In the days following the state championship, a steady procession of accolades began flowing in the direction of Alex Neligh. First, he was named Hancock County Player of the Year. Then to The Associated Press Class 4A All-State First Team. Then the Indiana Football Coaches Association 4A Junior All-State First Team.
And on and on it went.
It has been four months since Neligh led the New Palestine football team to state glory, yet the parade of honors has been unrelenting.
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This past weekend, Indiana Football Digest became the latest organization to bestow the quarterback with an award recognizing his burgeoning talent, as they named him one of their Prime Time 25. The honor recognizes the state’s top juniors who will be entering their senior year. As a result, the Dragons’ signal-caller will appear on the cover of the digest’s annual preseason preview magazine in July. He is just the second Dragon to receive the honor since the award’s inception in 2007 — the other was defensive back Josh Penley in 2012.
“It was a great honor to go there and stand with some of the best players in the state,” he said of the recent ceremony. “It was definitely one of the cooler award (programs) I’ve been to this year.”
For Neligh, the whirlwind of distinctions the past few months has been a welcome change from last year’s offseason of anxiety. Heading into spring 12 months ago, Neligh was an unknown outside the New Palestine community and was preparing to step out from behind the enormous shadow cast created by recent graduate and AP All-State Honorable Mention honoree Blake Luker.
This spring, he is an Indiana Preps Top 50 player who has been invited to compete at Best of the Midwest, Preps2Prospect and other elite camps.
“Not many people knew my name last year,” said Neligh, who hopes to continue his career on the gridiron at the Division I level. “(All the recognition) has been pretty great. It’s hard to take in, sometimes. I don’t think I realize how big some of this stuff is, but I know it helps keep me going hard.”
Neligh was never going to be one who rested on his laurels. Minutes after matching the 4A state record for touchdowns thrown in a title game (five), as well total scores (seven), Neligh said he would give himself a week off before getting back to work.
Less than seven days later, he was back in the weight room. A month later, he tweeted, “Still (upset) I threw two picks in the state game.”
About once every four weeks, Neligh watches the tape from that game, agonizing over every mistake he made, every opportunity he missed.
To Neligh, the offseason adulation means he must work harder than ever before. It’s exciting he’s no longer an unknown, he said, but he also knows he is no longer the best kept secret in Indiana prep football.
“It’s going to be a little more challenging this year,” he said. “Teams probably will be a little more focused on me now that James (Young) and some of our other weapons are gone. It’s going to be on my shoulders a little more.”
In other words, he will have a target on his back. There will be no time to sit back, relax and enjoy what he has already accomplished, especially now that New Palestine has made the jump to Class 5A.
And the rest of the remaining state-champion Dragons have followed his lead.
Neligh and his teammates raid the New Palestine weight room four days a week, he said. Once a week, he throws to his receivers, and once a week he works on his flexibility.
“There is no satisfaction, not anymore,” Neligh said. “Coach (Kyle) Ralph doesn’t let us (think that way). He knows if we lose any intensity we had from last offseason, we won’t have a chance.”
Over the weekend, Indiana Football Digest named New Palestine quarterback Alex Neligh one of its Prime Time 25. The award highlights the top 25 players heading into their senior season. The honor was just one of many Neligh has received since leading the Dragons to a Class 4A state championship last November. Here is a list of a few of the others.
- Hancock County Player of the Year (Offense)
- All-Hoosier Heritage Conference First Team
- Associated Press 4A All-State
- Indiana Football Coaches Association 4A Junior All-State First Team
- Indiana Preps 2016 Top 50 (No. 41)
- Indiana Preps No. 7 quarterback of class of 2016
“Maybe I won’t win, but I want to at least be in the discussion for Mr. Football,” Neligh said. “That’s been a goal of mine for the longest time.”