Soccer was the first sport Joey Geil fell in love with, but football wasn’t far behind. From an early age he knew he wanted to play college football. Midway through his junior season at Kelly Walsh that dream became closer to reality as he fielded phone calls and went on college visits.
Then, on National Signing Day, Geil brought all of those dreams to fruition with a few swipes of the pen.
Kelly Walsh’s anchoring middle linebacker and Star-Tribune Super 25 selection rejected a preferred walk-on spot at the University of Wyoming and instead signed his letter of intent to play football on scholarship at Chadron State College.
The coaching staff there was in early contact with Geil and never wavered, which became a major factor in his decision making. Even when the Trojans suffered setbacks the past two seasons, Geil knew he could count on still hearing from the coaches at Chadron.
“They were really invested in me from the start,” he said. “I love everything about it. What they teach and they preach there, I think, qualifies for my standards and who I want to be so that was a big factor.”
Also playing a role in his decision-making was that his older brother, Jake, will be a redshirt senior for the Eagles this upcoming season. The older Geil has carved out a quality career on the offensive line and will likely start for the fourth straight season.
There has been a pipeline between Kelly Walsh and Chadron State in recent years with many Trojans going on to become Eagles. While that connection did help with familiarity and comfort, Joey Geil kept an open mind as a plethora of different school stationery showed up in the mail.
“I kept my mind wide open and in the end it was Chadron because of how much time they put in with me,” Geil said. “But I wasn’t going to let any factor like where my brother went or where kids from Kelly Walsh went factor into it. I was open to anything.”
Geil will join a group of 11 linebackers that also includes Pine Bluffs graduate Kyle Steger and Newcastle graduate Merritt Crabtree. He will join the team in early August for fall camp before the semester begins.
After seeing a smattering of varsity minutes as a sophomore, mostly in garbage time, Geil soon became the centerpiece of the Trojans’ vastly improved defense. As a junior he finished in the top 10 in Class 4A with 6.9 tackles per game. He improved to average 7.6 tackles per game as a senior and came away with 11 tackles for loss, including four sacks.
It’s also worth noting that Geil played tight end on offense and was the Trojans’ leading receiver last season.
Those accolades gained the attention of a few other Division II schools, who inquired about Geil. Wyoming was the only Division I program to contact him, but after he found out he would not be offered a scholarship right away and was invited to be a walk-on, he verbally committed to Chadron State.
“It was stressful,” he said, “but at the same time the recruiting process happens only once in your life so I didn’t take it for granted, I loved every minute of it and I had a lot of fun.”
The Eagles’ defensive scheme also appealed to Geil, who saw similarities between what they do and what he enjoyed while at Kelly Walsh. Communication between defenders to audible on the fly and adjust where necessary helped the Trojans become the third-best defense in Class 4A last season, so for Geil it was enticing to continue playing in that scheme for another four or five years.
He’ll likely redshirt his first year at Chadron State before competing for playing time.
With the decision now over, Geil is forced to wait for the upcoming football season. At least he has one last soccer season to hold on to in the meantime.