In 2020, Outside the Huddle started an award for someone who the editors of Outside the Huddle deemed an ideal student athlete on the gridiron, one who really showcased the virtues we appreciate most in a high school football player.
Those virtues: discipline, work ethic and spirit were also three of the qualities most highly displayed by Clayten Stuart. A football player at Bishop Dwenger, Clayten passed away in November 2020. It is in his honor and with the blessing of the Stuart family that Outside the Huddle is proud to be able to annually present the Clayten Stuart Award.
“Clayten arrived to practice everyday with a joyful spirit. I never saw him without a smile on his face. He loved being with his friends and he loved to play football,” Bishop Dwenger football coach Jason Garrett said. “As soon as the helmet went on, he was a tenacious, physical player. No one outworked Clayten; a young man of great joy and tenacity.”
As 2022 progressed, there was one area player who stood out clearly above the rest for this award. A true beacon of spirit for his team and community, Columbia City senior Josh Arntz is the 2022 Clayten Stuart Award recipient.
“What you guys get to see is the gameday Josh and he is disciplined in that. What outside linebacker, when he was a junior, has six interceptions? That is telling you just discipline, reading his keys, stuff like that but it goes way beyond that,” Columbia City coach Brett Fox said. “It starts with practice; with the way he wants to compete and the way he is driven. He doesn’t want anyone to be better than him but at the same time he wants people to challenge him.”
Fox says Arntz choice in jersey number and Columbia City’s process of picking numbers helps exemplify both Arntz’s discipline and work ethic. The program tries to give certain numbers to certain kids based on traits that they have that remind the coaches of former players. Arntz acquired #32 previously worn by Khale Rider, a 2017 graduate. With that in mind, Arntz built off his personality traits shared with Rider and decided he would work extremely hard to raise the bar for the next person who may wear 32.
“We haven’t had many kids like him at Columbia City since I’ve been there,” Fox said of Arntz.
For Arntz, he gives credit to his football coaches for that demeanor in discipline and work ethic, especially his first football coach, who happened to be his dad. Arntz said that his dad always instilled to work hard and not show off in the game just because he could do certain things bigger and better.
“He’s very disciplined himself and he likes to teach his kids that,” Arntz said.
On the field, Arntz was a machine for the NE8 and Sectional champion Eagles in 2022. He became a critical power back in Columbia City’s four headed backfield monster. Arntz ran for 634 yards on 109 carries with 10 touchdowns, including some critical moments finding the endzone in championship shaping opportunities.
Defensively, Arntz was second on the team with 86 tackles including 15 for loss. He also registered three sacks, two fumble recoveries, an interception and a forced fumble for the Eagles.
“You can see all of the games we won by large margins, we weren’t way more athletic than anybody, we were making the right plays, the right reads, being disciplined, staying home on defense, all of that kind of stuff,” Arntz said of how being disciplined led this season’s Columbia City group. “Being a leader on that defense for that was huge. It felt really good to be part of that defense and everybody was one unit working together.”
While Columbia City played in a lot of big games with big moments in 2022, and before, during Arntz run at the front of the program, there were plenty of light moments too. According to Fox, Arntz was a leader in the spirit of the group. Fox things that the younger players on the team learned from Arntz when to enjoy things and also when to be serious and buckle down just by watching him.
“This group may be one of the most fun and spirited you will see,” Arntz said. “There is no point in taking yourself too seriously in high school sports. Do what you’ve gotta do, be disciplined, do everything correctly. But its high school sport; have fun, live your life.”
That philosophy was one both Arntz and Fox saw permeate through the entire Columbia City team. Fox continues to believe that Arntz was a more of a driver in that mood than just a passenger throughout the season in handling situations on the field when the team was up or down.
“It’s a hard balance in being serious and then joking and having fun. You can cross that line, but the great thing is, its not like he had to say anything to our team to get them to do that, I think his personality just leads to that,” Fox noted.
Part of that spirit comes away from the football field and in the world of social media. It may be miniscule in the grand scheme, but Arntz was constantly a positive, respectful and appreciative presence in a world that can often be full of pitfalls.
“That is a learned virtue that I think everyone should have,” Arntz said. “I’m a small linebacker from a small school in a small city. Anytime I am getting looked at, it is a huge, huge thing for me and the community. It is awesome to see so I am obviously going to thank those people and I am never going to look to be the center of attention, I want to push it back to the community.”
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