There was the move to tight end in high school.
There was the college recruitment as a center.
So when Ryan Neuzil switched to left guard in November, you guessed it: No problem.
The Braden River High alumnus is a redshirt freshman at Appalachian State and a key reason why the Mountaineers’ running game sprang to life during the last four games of the 2017 regular season.
Now he’s preparing for his first college football bowl game as App State’s starting left guard.
The Mountaineers play Toledo in Saturday’s Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Since Neuzil’s insertion into the lineup, App State’s running game is averaging 311 yards per game.
The Mountaineers outscored opponents 121-30 during the three-game winning streak that coincided with Neuzil taking over as the starting left guard.
“He plays with confidence and he plays fast, and he sees things as they happen,” App State co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Shawn Clark told App State Mania in late November. “Can’t say enough good things about him right now. He’s just one of those guys that’s a little pitbull in there. He’s definitely brought some excitement to the offensive line and he’s doing good things.”
To adjust to left guard, Neuzil needed to learn a new stance. He soaked it up through repetitions at practice.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that Neuzil, who added 20 pounds from his high school senior season through App State’s rigorous weight training program for redshirt freshmen, has a no-quit attitude about everything.
“He would never quit,” his mom Tina said. “A strength and conditioning coach, Ryan’s got to be your poster child. ... He’ll want to quit, but he never will.”
Neuzil is a self-described low-key, down-to-earth person.
Tina said she’s always been told he’s like a giant teddy bear.
But when the whistle blows, Neuzil is a fierce competitor and it’s because of the environment he grew up in.
His father Jeff played professional baseball for the Kansas City Royals, reaching as high as Triple-A in four seasons. His brother Alec and mother Tina also are athletes.
“We don’t coddle a lot in this house, so if you’re going to beat me it’s going to be straight up,” Tina said. “I’m not going to let you beat me. So until last year, Ryan could never beat me at pool. I’m a pretty good darn pool player. It’s just so funny to us, because we rented a house and went there and he beat me for the first time at pool. And you’d have thought he had won the lottery.”
The Neuzil family is scheduled to watch Ryan play in Saturday’s Dollar General Bowl in person. Ryan has a close bond with his older brother Alec, while Jeff and Tina made the drive to Mobile earlier in the week.
Against Toledo, a team App State defeated in a bowl game last year, Neuzil faces a defense that uses its linebackers to disrupt the run.
“Right when they read run, they just shoot in the gaps and it gets you off the double teams,” Neuzil said. “They don’t allow double teams at all.”
While the focus is on Saturday’s game, there’s also the busy lead up to the game with activities and events involving both programs.
For example, Wednesday saw Neuzil and the Mountaineers compete against the Toledo Rockets in a bowling night as well as the programs visiting a children’s hospital.
“I think we’re a pretty good bowling squad,” Neuzil said. “... The bowl games always do a great job of keeping us busy and entertained. They really like to showcase the city.”
Now Mobile and an ESPN audience gets to see Neuzil showcase what’s long been known around Manatee County and inside the Neuzil home: a relentless competitor that’s really good at whatever is thrown his way.