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RGR Spotlight | 'We're hungry this year': LB Brody Harper is ready to lead tone-setting Railers defense
Part of the RGR Spotlight series. New installments every Tuesday leading up to kickoff of the 2022 season.
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The 2021 season saw the on-field growth of many Newton football players in more ways than one: leadership, production, and durability — to name a few. From quarterback to wide receiver to the defensive line, both starters and sporadic contributors grew into their own and ended the season much better than they started it.
However, one of the most notable (and arguably most entertaining) progressions came from rising senior linebacker Brody Harper.
A year ago, Harper started his junior campaign relatively quiet but quickly became a force to be reckoned with thanks to a few splash plays — the most memorable being an interception in the Railers’ second win of the season against Salina South.
Now, Harper understands the role Newton’s defense has to play if the team hopes to find success under new head coach Greg Slade. He also knows that it’s his unit to lead and has already identified the mentality he hopes they can set.
“We want to go out there and play the best we can,” Harper said. “… We want to get as many stops as we possibly can on defense. We want to go out blazing and set the energy throughout the entire season and let the offense go to work.”
Harper’s crew got to test this against some of the state’s best at a team camp at Benedictine College.
“I definitely feel like the defense grew there,” Harper said. “We were learning our new scheme still and it was a little rough at first. But as soon as we got going and picked up on our calls and cues … we really started to catch fire. We were shutting some offenses down. It was a great time up there.”
As to Slade himself, Harper is confident that his leadership will produce tangible results — something the Railers have been searching for consistently throughout its football program’s existence — and that confidence is reflected in his expectations for 2022.
“I love Coach Slade,” Harper said. “He’s putting us through a lot of work this summer between weights and all this stuff — I think he's gonna be a great guy for us. And I'm expecting to win a couple more games than we did last year, maybe even have a winning record this season, because his offensive schemes are good and our new defensive scheme is looking pretty solid.”
It’s within this new scheme that Harper is hoping to use his senior year to take the next step as an all-around prototype linebacker. Notably a run-stuffer, he recognizes the area he can (literally) take strides in to improve his game.
“I'm not the fastest of the linebackers that we have,” he said. “I’ve worked on [my speed] by going into weights trying my hardest to build my leg strength.”
Harper has also utilized his wrestling training as a means of continuing to strengthen his versatility — which he feels is one of the cornerstones of his identity on the gridiron.
“I'm really good at the inside linebacker role, being able to take on those big ol’ linemen. Outside of weights, I also just got back from wrestling and keeping my conditioning up which allows me to play in many different positions.”
What all of these improvements and weeks spent in preparation should culminate in — in Harper’s mind — is the manifestation of a teamwide desire to prove that this is a different Newton football program moving forward to not only students, fans, or alumni, but the players themselves.
“This senior class, we’re hungry this year,” Harper said. “We want to go out there and compete with the best. Of course, you’ve got the Derbys, the Maizes — those are always some big, tough games. But getting [Arkansas] City and Valley [Center] and keeping Salina South on the schedule, those are all very winnable games for us.
We're gonna play the best we can to win those games.”