From Both Sides: Brighton graduate sacrifices pay off with a scholarship to play football in Kansas

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By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Back in 2017, Brighton Cardinal Josh Fleming stepped out on faith.

When the Cardinal Football coaches asked him to make the move from running back to linebacker as a freshman, he gave it a chance. Fast forward to 2020, Fleming entered his senior season at Brighton under a cloud of uncertainty.

Fully immersed in his linebacker role, Fleming was sure he would be a productive tacklers and force on the Cardinal defense. But the doubts came about his college football future.

“It’s a blessing from God, I am just thankful,” Fleming said May 12 on the track of the Brighton Football Stadium. “I get the opportunity to play again.”

With his parents Curtis and Renata Fleming by his side and grandmother Sandra Cobb a few feet away, Fleming inked his national letter of intent to play football at Kansas Sterling College. Fleming will be taking his talents 13 hours away to Sterling to play for Head Coach Chase Hansen in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. The Warriors are an NAIA school have been ranked in the Top 25 of the NAIA Football Coaches’ Postseason Poll in 2019.

“With COVID, we got kind of messed over,” Fleming acknowledged. “We couldn’t have any scouts come because of COVID. So when Kansas Sterling hit me up, it was a blessing.”

Renata said her son’s blessing was a combination of a Higher Power and Josh using his natural gifts.

“Hard work and determination ever since the sixth grade,” she noted, “in the eighth grade he had five touchdowns in a game.”

Curtis knew his son was gifted on the gridiron once he picked up the game at the age of 12 and prepared to help him focus on the game.

“It was his dream to play in college,” he said. “He started with baseball first and gave up on that to concentrate on football. I knew he had the ability at Brighton Middle.”

But when it came time for Fleming to leave BMS and head over to the high school, he was faced with a choice that would give him a spot on the varsity roster.

“It’s been hard work from his freshman year on,” Brighton Head Coach Mike David said. “Not only that, he’s has great character. We’re real proud of him. He has a great work ethic.

“He came in as a freshman playing running back,” he continued. “He played varsity for four years which is really hard to do. He was a three-year starter. His work ethic on the field and in the weight room has got him to this point.”

That added size and strength proved to the Brighton coaches Fleming was dedicated to his new position.

“He’s one of the most unselfish people I know,” David said. “We’re very fortunate to have somebody like that. He wants to do what is best for the team. He’s a true leader.”

Curtis said he was a little nervous that August night in 2017.

“I was scared that first year but when he got in there,” he recalled. “And he made that first tackle I was like ‘OK, he’s good.’ It was on from there.

Sacrificing the glory and shine of being a running back wasn’t a difficult decision for Josh.

“Running the ball, I like running people over,” he said. “That’s my go-to. Even more hitting, that’s more fun for me.”

Curtis said his son was able to make a smooth transition from running back to linebacker using the mindset of his mother.

“Attitude, he got that from his mother,” he said. “He’s positive and he’s going to do it until he gets done with it.”

Renata said Curtis contributed to their son’s success with good genetics.

“Josh did what is best for the team and made that sacrifice,” she said. “He got his dad’s athletic ability. His dad is very athletic too. He played football at Munford.”

Josh said one of his first blessing is having two wonderful parents.

“My dad taught me to not fear any other man because they bleed like I bleed,” he said. “My mom is a hard working woman who provided me with anything I needed. And I love her for that. That’s where my work ethic come from.”

By his side the entire time and through the pandemic year, the Flemings kept their son hopeful of reaching his dream. Now the name Josh Fleming is added to the elusive list of student/athletes in the Class of 2021 to reach the next level.

“I was sad at one point,”he acknowledged. “I thought I wouldn’t get to play at the next level. We always thought about going somewhere big and then COVID hit my junior year after the lift-a-thon.

“That’s when it took almost everything from us,” he concluded. “But some of us still get to play. I will never take this opportunity for granted.”