WOODBURY – Justin Southard could have just packed it in. Or he could have just transferred to another school for an opportunity to play varsity football as a senior.
Southard wanted to set an example by standing by the Chiefs, even though the program decided to play a sub-varsity schedule, and his efforts on and off the field did not go unnoticed.
The Nonnewaug Athletic Club honored Southard on Monday as the Fall 2018 recipient of its Iron Man Award.
The Iron Man Award is not a sportsmanship award. According to the Nonnewaug Athletic Club said the award is for grit and toughness: An athlete who always works hard, every day, every practice and every competition.
“He is what I would describe as a young man of great character,” wrote Nonnewaug head football coach Zach Mihaly on his nomination form. “He faced adversity this year and made a difficult decision in staying with the program. The program competed at the Junior Varsity level and as a senior stayed on to lead this program with great pride.”
Southard, who played running back and linebacker for the Chiefs, saw his season end prematurely when he fractured his ankle during a game at Fairfield Warde on October 29. After he was injured, Southard tried to return to fill in for another player who had also been hurt during the game.
Southard said he and co-captain Jarrett Michaels wanted to play as seniors so they could help the younger kids, who they played with when Woodbury had a Pop Warner program, build something special for the future.
“No one expected this to happen to the program,” said Southard after the team’s first practice of the season. “It is something that we have to go through as a team, but overall it will make our program better and hopefully keep our program alive.”