NIWOT — Danny Witt has been a player for the Niwot soccer team that never had any interest in leaving the field. In 2012, that meant making a very unselfish move and in 2013, it meant playing through an injury that could sometimes torment athletes mentally as well as physically.
Each of the past two years, though, he’s been an impact player in the Northern League. More importantly, he’s been a leader by example for coach Rob Johnson’s Cougars.
“As a second-year captain, he was the first one there and the last one to leave, and he and the other captains led by example, and I don’t think he missed a single practice,” Johnson said. “He was exactly the player I want. Took on his duties and stepped up. His actions did the talking.”
For his gamesmanship and exceptional abilities that saw him score 18 goals this season in leading NHS to a second-place league finish, Witt has been named the Times-Call boys soccer player of the year.
Johnson has asked a lot out of Witt the past two seasons, including presenting a position switch to him at the beginning of the 2012 campaign. In need of another defender after myriad injuries caused them to be short-benched on the back end, Witt did an exceptional job of holding the fort as the center back.
At the outset of the 2013 season, Johnson approached Witt once again with a daunting challenge.
“Before the season, I just came up to him and told him, ‘We’re going to live and die by you up top’,” Johnson said. “You are our main go-to guy up top. I put him in charge of everything, he took all of our PK’s all of our free kicks that were close enough to get on goal. He was our No. 1.”
And, it appeared Witt was ready to provide. He scored four goals in the season opener against Skyline, citing a bit of disappointment that he was not mentioned among the top players in the area in the BoCoPreps.com season preview as motivation.
That sprung consistency throughout the season as Niwot went 7-1 in league play, 11-4-1 overall and achieved a state ranking before falling to Battle Mountain in the second round of the playoffs. In a two-game run in September, he scored all four of the team’s goals in wins against Overland (2-1) and Greeley West (2-0).
Witt did it again against Longmont, recording a hat trick in a 3-2 win over the Trojans, and he added one more three-goal game before the season was said and done (Oct. 23, D’Evelyn).
“We didn’t have a lot of forwards coming back, so I got the opportunity to play up top again and it turned out well,” said Witt, who totaled 40 points for the season to earn league co-player of the year honors as well as first-team all-state honors in Class 4A. “I had a lot of really good teammates. Grant Webster was always getting me the ball through the midfield, and there were a lot of really good forwards that played by me that were able to get the ball to me.
“We were really good as a team at passing the ball around and building up the attack that way, getting balls in the box and capitalize on that.”
Many of those goals came with just one healthy leg. An oftentimes frustrating groin injury befell Witt in the second game of the year to his left side, and it never went away. But it was also never bad enough to cause him to miss any games, either.
Rather than let it dampen his efforts, he just tried to improve with his healthier right foot.
“I didn’t want to stop playing, so I just dealt with it,” Witt said. “I had to play on my right foot, which is my weaker foot, a lot more. I’m all right with my right foot, but I think after this season I got a lot stronger. The injury forced me to do that.”
Added Johnson: “He did a lot of things with his right side, which he just got better at. He had at least a third of his goals with his right foot, and he created goals for himself and he made good runs off the ball. I can’t say enough about the kid.”
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