FAIRMONT — Whether its on the football field or on the basketball court, Jarrod Neal doesn’t tend to say much.
Instead, his confidence and his determination are shown simply by the way he plays.
“He leads by example,” Fairmont football coach Randy Ragland said. “He’s got a certain look about him like ‘it’s time to go.’”
With Neal at the helm, Fairmont’s sports teams have gone plenty of places recently.
Last winter he helped guide the Golden Tornadoes to the 2A East Regional championship in basketball and in football this fall he led his team to an 8-4 record. He was named the Robesonian’s County Heisman winner after throwing 47 touchdown passes, the second-most in county history, and 311.3 passing yard per game, a county record.
His leadership abilities and overall focus on excellence were among the reasons he was chosen as December’s Mountaire Farms/Civitas Media Scholar Athlete of the Month.
The program’s mission is to highlight male and female senior student-athletes within Robeson, Scotland and Bladen counties who carry a 3.0 GPA or higher. Nominees need to also be recognized by their coaches for outstanding sportsmanship and perform with superior ability in athletic competition.
Each monthly winner receives a $1,000 college scholarship and becomes eligible for an additional $1,500 in college funds that is awarded in June to the male and female scholar athletes of the year.
Neal, a Fairmont native, is focused simply on being the best.
“I don’t want to be a follower, I’d rather be a leader,” Neal said. “Leaders have to lead by example.”
For what he’s done on the field, he’s nearly as proud as what he’s done off of it.
In the classroom, he’s racked up a 3.73 weighted grade point average, 3.277 unweighted. He is a member of Beta Club and also contributes to the school’s art club.
“He signifies everything a student-athlete should be,” Ragland said
Neal cites a focus on the future as his motivation.
“I know sports aren’t going to be there forever,” Neal said. “With grades at least you can have a life after sports.”
Though he had admits there are a few late nights balancing school work with being a captain of two teams, he said it’s not as difficult as it appears.
“It’s not really a challenge, it’s just a mindset thing,” he said. “If you have your mind set on it, you can do anything.”
When he gets in his uniform, it’s a matter of mastering the small details, something that his coaches appreciate.
“It’s like having an extension of me on the field,” Ragland said.
Neal’s future is wide open, but his preference is to continue playing football or basketball at a four-year college. He doesn’t have specific schools in mind right now, but plans to major in mechanical engineering.
“I just want to play basketball or football, that’s all,” he said.
Regardless, he’s been key to the recent athletic success at Fairmont and it’s a legacy he’s proud to be a part of.
“It meant a lot,” he said. “I know that I have to leave a legacy so I’m trying to leave other players next year a path to go down, lead them in the right direction.”