Liam Nealy - 12 Sports Athlete of the Week

Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 9:37 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 10, 2022 at 10:12 PM EST
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VESTAL, N.Y. (WBNG) - On the football field there’s certain players that just grab your attention.

Whether it’s by delivering the big hit, or breaking off a long touchdown run, some players just stand out.

For the Vestal football team, junior running back/safety Liam Nealy does both

“I’ve been coaching about 30 years. There haven’t been too many guys I’ve seen that have been able to come downhill and fill a hole hard defensively from the safety position like he does,” said Vestal head coach Jim Crunden.

“It’s pretty cool. If he gets open in the field, if he sees green he’s gone. He’s scoring a touchdown every time. So that’s pretty fun,” added Vestal senior right guard Rashee Shuler.

On offense, Liam has been one of the most productive running backs in Section 4, going for over 1,000 yards on 151 carries. As he puts up those numbers, everyone including the other teams, start to take notice.

“As I got better going through the season, teams started to key on me. It was go for the touchdown, then go for the first down, now it’s take what I can get. Try and get as much as I can every play,” said Nealy.

But don’t let that modest attitude fool you. Liam has made highlight-reel runs a weekly staple in Golden Bears football games.

Then, on the defensive side of the ball, he’s the hard-hitting safety leading a unit that’s allowed just 10 points a game. Including a stretch of three straight shutouts earlier this season.

His game-changing plays provide a spark for everyone.

“Nothing can top it. When you hit someone you know everyone is hype. You get hype. When you score a long touchdown the crowd is excited. Teammates are excited,” added Nealy.

“He comes downhill, he lays the smack on a guy you’re thinking that guy is going for another 10, 15 yards all of a sudden he’s stopped for a four yard gain, you’re like ‘Wow’. I think everyone jumps on board when you see hits like that and play like that and they just want to be a part of it,” said Crunden.

Now Vestal is preparing for the Section 4 Class A title game, which is a rematch with Union-Endicott who they lost 12-7 to in a down-to-the-wire finish earlier this season.

A championship matchup with your school’s rival is a big moment for sure, but Liam and the Golden Bears are keeping a singular focus.

“From this point on it’s a one week season. Nothing else is guaranteed. That’s just our mindset going forward. We have to play like it’s our last play,” said Nealy.

So on Friday Liam’s concentration will be on bringing a title to Vestal, while everyone else will have their attention on number 44.