Boys Athlete of the Week – Max Neff, Pampa

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Pampa running back Max Neff is the First United Bank Athlete of the Week. [Charla Shults/ Press Pass Sports]

Max Neff, Pampa football, Fr.

On the field: It’s likely that no other player in the Texas Panhandle carried a heavier heart onto the field last Friday night than Neff, making his second career varsity start. Five days before Pampa’s home opener against Plainview, Neff’s father Spencer passed away at the age of 49 after a long illness, leaving Neff without a father to watch him for the remainder of his football career. Neff used that grief to advantage like a student-athlete well beyond his years In his first home game, gouging Plainview for 297 yards and two touchdowns on just 23 carries to lead the Harvesters to a come-from behind 25-21 victory which moved them to 2-0 on the season. For good measure, Neff also caught a 37-yard touchdown pass which further displayed his versatility. Neff turned tragedy into triumph in memory of his father, whose memorial service will be held Friday in Pampa, less than 24 hours after Max makes his third varsity start for the Harvesters against Caprock in Amarillo. Max has been nominated as the Mr. Texas Football Player of the Week.

Coach Cody Robinson: “It’s unimaginable for a kid to have to go through. Max has been dealing with that and he’s just been a great example of what a Pampa Harvester is. We knew his dad was having some health issues, so he took off to be with him. We were just continuing to work like normal and he said his dad would want him to continue to play. When a kid tells you that as a coach it just kind of tugs at you. Max is 14-years old and as a coaching staff we spend a lot of time evaluating. We know he’s ready physically but there’s a big difference between playing eighth grade football and varsity football. It didn’t take long for him to make it evident that he was ready. He’s got a huge upside and still a lot of areas where he can improve and get better. I’m awfully proud of that young man and just how he’s handled adversity. Any time something like (297 yards) happens it’s not just an individual effort. (Neff) is a name you’ve got to get used to. It’s kind of a testament to what you can do when you make your mind up.”

Neff: “I knew it was something I wanted to do. I know my dad would have wanted me to play and be on the field instead of next to him in a hospital bed. He was OK with the decision. That made me feel 10 times better just knowing he was supporting me as much as he could from where he was and I’m so thankful for that. He’ll always be my biggest inspiration. At first, I broke off a couple of big runs and got some massive holes from my offensive line. I was breaking tackles and getting upfield with regularity and it just felt like everything was going to go to plan. I was surprised. I did not think I was anywhere close to 300 yards. I thought I was way under that. I felt a sense of relief that we had won the game for (Spencer). I felt I did whatever I could to make him proud and, in some way, shape or form he was with me and carried me through the day.”

About Neff

Favorite band or musician: Jake Hole

Favorite social media platform: Instagram

Favorite athlete: Saquon Barkley

Bet you didn’t know: Loves to hunt and fish

Parents: Lauren and Brandon Baxter

 

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