Neisewander in the middle of Newman’s defensive success
Right spot, right time
The ball bounced off Nate Terveer's facemask and shot high up into the air during Newman's Class 2A second-round game against Eastland-Pearl City.
The ball hovered in the air as J.P. Neisewander moved into position.
The Newman senior linebacker felt time stop.
"When the ball is in the air like that, it's like everyone stops moving," Neisewander said.
"You're not thinking about anything else, just the ball. You're not worried about the fact that six guys are going to try and hit you. It's just all about catching the ball."
Neisewander has been in the right place to make big plays in each of the last three Newman playoff wins.
He had the interception against the Wildcatz. A week later against Momence, Neisewander had an interception on a similar play. He grabbed a tipped ball out of the air to stop a Redskins drive.
Last Saturday, he was J.P. on the spot again, helping to halt a brief moment of hope for Mercer County.
The Golden Eagles had forced a Jake Snow fumble with a hard hit during the third quarter of Saturday's semifinal game. On the ensuing drive, the Eagles put the ball on the ground, and it was Neisewander who recovered the ball.
"I don't really deserve that much credit for that," Neisewander said. "The credit really goes to the rest of my team. The defensive line put so much pressure on the quarterbacks on those passes, that it made them force throws. Other guys on the team were able to tip the ball, and I was just in the right spot to catch it."
As humble as Neisewander appears, first-year linebackers coach Brandon Kreczmer knows that Neisewander has a lot more to do with the success than he lets on.
"They are taught to always give credit to the defensive line and defensive backs," Kreczmer said. "J.P. knows the defense works together as a unit. Everyone has to do their jobs. He and the rest of the linebackers have done their jobs very well.
"From the first day that I came here, I knew J.P. was a kid that would make a difference. He was in the weight room working hard. He was always looking for ways to get better. That's the sort of player every coach wants."
Kreczmer went to high school at St. Patrick in Chicago. After that, he was a linebacker at Western Illinois University before spending last year as a linebackers coach at Illinois College.
"He brings some new blood into our system," Newman head coach Mike Papoccia said. "He's done an excellent job preparing the linebackers for every game. I am not sure we've had a group of linebackers perform within the system so well."
Neisewander is the third of five siblings to attend Newman. His older sister Brittany was a cheerleader. His older brother, Brandon, was on the 2009 state championship cross country team.
His younger brother, Jacob, is a freshman at Newman, and according to J.P, could become a force on the Comets' football team.
"I don't like to admit it, but he's already taller than me," Neisewander said. "He's built bigger than me, too. I am going to get him in the weight room once the season gets over so that he gets stronger."
His youngest brother, Sammy, is in second grade.
"Sammy is already getting excited about football," Neisewander said. "He wants to play games outside all the time, and he can't wait to be on the Junior Comets."
Neisewander, who also plays tennis in the spring, is starting to think about life after high school.
He's filling out applications and writing essays right now, while also trying to recruit friends to form a cover band.
His ultimate goal is to go to Notre Dame and study either engineering or business.
"I don't know exactly what I want to do," Neisewander said. "I know that if I go to Notre Dame that I'll have a year to work on credits before making the choice. I know that they have one of the best business schools around."
If college and careers go the same way football has for J.P. Neisewander, there is little doubt that he'll be in the right place when the opportunity comes.