St. Paul Highland Park junior Josh Aune was going to be playing college football somewhere in two years. He had secured a pair of FCS offers, but when the right offer was made last week, it was the junior's dream come true.
“The recruiting process was incredibly fun,” Aune said. “I had coaches coming into the school to say ‘hi' to my coach. I was going on official visits and game day visits. I was living my dream. It was an incredible experience.”
During the offseason, Aune was offered by North Dakota State and South Dakota State. He also drew interest from Montana State and South Dakota, but the offer he was waiting for came in the last couple of weeks.
“When Claeys' staff was in there they talked to me a lot and invited me to camp,” Aune said. “I went on game day visits last year. It was going well. When the new staff came in, they picked up right where the old staff left off. They were connected with me. They invited me to junior days and asked me to be to be around campus as much as I could.”
The new coaching staff wanted Aune to come to camp to take one more look at him.
“They asked me to come to camp so they could decide if they wanted to offer me,” Aune said. “I went to camp and did my best. It went well – I got the offer. I have wanted to be a Gopher ever since I was a young guy. I was always watching them on TV; my family was Gophers' fans. Being part of the hometown team was a dream come true for me. I committed right away.”
The programs that were pursuing the junior all had similar things they liked about NFN's 10th ranked junior.
“They told me I am a versatile player,” the 6-1 200 pound four-sport athlete said. “They like the way I moved and think I am athletic. They said I had good leadership qualities.”
As far as he could tell, Aune was recruited exclusively as a defensive player. He expects to start out at safety and if he puts on weight in the next few years, could see himself moving to a linebacker position – as he did for the Scots in 2016. On offense, he played mainly wide receiver but would line up all over the formation, sometimes even in the backfield. On defense, he started the season at safety but eventually moved to middle linebacker.
“It was a fun time. We started out slow, but we clawed our way back and won some big games. It ended too soon in the section finals, but I had a lot of fun with the guys.”
The Scots put up a lot of points in 2016.
“Our team's strengths came from our leadership. Our quarterback Amitri Collins- Westlund and our running back Antonio Ortiz were great guys and kept out intensity up. On defense, our depth was very good. We played aggressively on defense, but we all knew our jobs.”
“My strength on the defensive side is my ability to track the ball. I take good angles. On offense I take pride in this – I went the whole season without a holding call. I felt like I did a good job blocking for other guys. Also, my versatility was one of my strengths. I was able to give the defense trouble – at least I hope I gave them trouble – where am I lining up?”
Aune is versatile off the football field as well. He was one of the guys who would do the dirty work on the basketball team – a team that would record the second most wins in a season in school history. In the spring he played baseball and ran track. He played center field on a team that won a playoff game for the first time in three years. He had two home runs and thought he led the team in RBIs. As a track athlete, he helped his team win a conference title, and individually he qualified for State in the 110-meter hurdles, the high jump and the triple jump – an event in which he placed seventh.
To prepare for his senior season, he wants to work on his footwork as a defensive back as well as making his point of contact lower so he can get more leverage.
Aune may have fulfilled a dream earlier this spring, but the Scots and the Gophers both hope he will fulfill a few more football dreams over the next few years.