NEW PALESTINE — If New Palestine senior quarterback Alex Neligh had a vote for the prestigious Indiana Mr. Football award, he definitely wouldn’t vote for himself — or any of the other top players in the state.
Neligh, whose résumé includes 65 total touchdowns and 4,282 yards this season, most likely would vote for his teammates. He said he knows in his mind that none of his success would be possible without them.
Neligh said he knows a 13-0 record and state finals berth would not be possible without a complete team. He is fully aware that his passing records would not have fallen without his quick and talented wide receivers. And Neligh certainly knows having the state’s most prolific offense would not be possible without his dominant offensive line — that’s about all he will talk about.
But more than anything, Neligh completely understands the game of football, which is why he is a serious candidate for the state’s top high school football award.
“He gets it. He knows the unselfish nature of our offense,” Dragons coach Kyle Ralph said. “When his number has been called this season, he’s executed very well. He could easily be selfish.”
Ralph explained that Neligh is just as remarkable off the field, which is a key characteristic of Mr. Football winners in the past. The senior volunteers in the community and spends time helping coach younger New Palestine football players who wish to be just like him someday, which is why he won the team’s Dragon Award for best representative of the program as a whole.
“Mr. Football needs to be someone who represents the state of Indiana very well as far as who they are as a human being,” Ralph said. “I don’t think you could pick a better kid than that (Neligh). Alex is such a great person and what he does off the field is so much more impressive than what he does on it.
“If you talk to that kid for 10 minutes, you will realize he is one of the most mature, humble and impressive human beings you will ever be around.”
Keep in mind, those words come from a man who played at every level of football, including the NFL.
After accumulating 47 total touchdowns and 3,654 yards last season, Neligh, who is 28-0 as a starter, was determined to improve on those numbers in 2015.
He added noticeable muscle to his lower body, as did the whole Dragons team, in hopes of remaining perfect as a starter and winning the program’s second-straight state title. And his interception numbers, although already low, dropped from eight to just two this season — one was a Hail Mary, and the other came after a hard hit in the pocket.
But Neligh doesn’t like speaking about himself. As stated before, the senior is a team-first guy. After all, those are his “best friends”.
“They are just as important as I am going out there and making plays,” Neligh said. “The O-line (offensive line), I would put them up against anyone in the state. They don’t get any of the credit, which kind of throws me a little bit, because they’re the ones who go out there every Friday night and put the work in.
“My receivers and running backs really take a lot of it too.”
Added Ralph: “Him giving credit to the offensive line is something he truly believes in. He cares about those guys — it’s not just fluff.”
Each win reveals a more impressive Neligh, who has only received one college offer this season (Marion University), and appears to get better each week. He had at least one rushing and one passing touchdown in every game this season, except one, a 45-0 win against previously unbeaten Shelbyville. But he did score four times on the ground in the win.
He had a season-high four touchdown tosses the next week, however, which he did three times this year. The senior also had two 200-200 games (passing and rushing yards).
Neligh’s quarterback rating currently sits at 144.4, just 14 points below perfection (158.3), and his total yardage this season ranks first in the state, according to MaxPreps.
And his rushing touchdown total? Seventh in the state.
But just being mentioned in the same breath as other elite players in the state in something Neligh does not take lightly. It’s been a goal of his for multiple seasons now, he said.
“It means a lot to me. It’s like the icing on the cake,” Neligh said. “To even have my name up there, there are so many talented players in the state. It’s very humbling.”
An elite athlete with humility and a sense of community? Sounds just like Mr. Football.
Alex Neligh, New Palestine Senior Quarterback, #11
-Passing – 2,351 yards, 33 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 144.4 QBR
-Rushing – 1,931 yards, 33 touchdowns, 8.8 yards per carry
– Mr. Football candidate
Career Leader at New Palestine
– Completions 286
– Passing yards 4,873
– Passing touchdowns 60
– Rushing touchdowns 52
– Total offense 8,051
– Total touchdowns 112
– Only player to pass for over 2, 000 yards in back-to-back seasons