BELTON- Blair Neighbors has always seen his play on the field as more than just a final score, or a stat line, or earning individual accolades. The son of a pastor in his hometown of Thrall, the middle linebacker and free safety has been driven by his faith through his success on the gridiron, success that has granted him an opportunity with the UMHB football program this fall.
“I’m very excited and honored to be able to play in the FCA victory bowl,” Neighbors said recently. “That’s what sports are all about, giving glory and honor back to God.”
The high school seasons for most of UMHB’s Class of 2022 commits have ended, but for a handful of them, Neighbors included, one additional opportunity remains before they begin their collegiate careers in Belton within the next three months. The Heart of Texas FCA is set to host its annual Victory Bowl high school all-star games this weekend, featuring senior athletes from a number of Central Texas schools, as they grow athletically and spiritually in one final opportunity at the high school level.
“I am very excited to play one more game with my friends in high school,” Neighbors added. “Thrall is a small school and I love being able to put them on the map and represent them in a positive way.”
Neighbors will not be alone in representing Thrall in the football game, which will be contested at Waco ISD Stadium at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Two of his Thrall teammates, including fellow UMHB commit Tyreke Irvin, are listed on the Blue Roster. Headlining the Red Roster is another future Crusader: Belton’s very own Trent West.
“I consider it an honor and a privilege to represent Belton High School at the Victory Bowl this weekend,” West said. “I wouldn’t have had this opportunity had it not been for the continued support of my teammates, coaches, teachers and family. It’s an honor just to be selected and represent the Belton Tigers one last time.”
West, a cornerback who committed to UMHB over offers from Texas Southern (D-I), West Texas A&M (D-II) and Angelo State (D-II), is especially excited for the unique aspect that the Victory Bowl offers, partaking in an event that showcases athletes from 52 different programs in the local area. Great fellowship is formed over the few days of practices as well as on gameday,
“I look forward to the fellowship with the other athletes in central Texas,” West said. “Faith and football require commitment and I look forward to continuing my education at a faith based college and becoming part of the Cru nation as well.”
The football portion of the Victory Bowl is not the only contest featuring a UMHB commit. China Spring softball standout Ryleigh “Rue” Sheehan will get an early opportunity to play on her future home field in Belton on Friday, in a 6:30 p.m. matchup. An outfielder, Sheehan finished her senior year with District 18-4A MVP honors, and will be joined by high school teammate Lindsey Wilcox on the Red Roster.
“I am also extremely blessed to have been nominated to play in this game,” Sheehan told True To The Cru. “I’m excited to be able to experience playing the sport I love and be able to grow in my faith in just a couple of days.”
Complete List of UMHB commits playing in the Heart of Texas FCA Victory Bowl (Jersey number for the Victory Bowl listed in parentheses)
Baseball (June 3, 6:30 p.m., Red Murff Field, Belton)
DaMarion Chambers-University HS-Committed to UMHB for Football (No. 7)
Softball (June 3, 6:30 p.m., Dee Dillon Field, Belton)
Ryleigh “Rue” Sheehan– China Spring HS-OF/UTL (No. 1)
Football (June 4, 10 a.m., WISD Stadium, Waco)
Trent West-Belton HS-CB (No. 28)
Joseph Pendleton-West HS-LB (No. 34)
Blair Neighbors-Thrall HS-MLB/FS (No. 23)
Tyreke Irvin-Thrall HS-RB (No. 34)