Nikiski's Josh Ball prepares to snap the ball during a game last weekend.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
In football and in acting, Nikiski senior Josh Ball knows his lines.
"His leadership skills are as good as you get and he's also got some football skills," Nikiski coach Ned Clooten said of his center and defensive tackle. "He's a great influence to the team on the field and off the field."
Nikiski drama teacher Joe Rizzo is similarly enamored of Ball's abilities.
"We've had a lot of really fine actors come out of Nikiski, but of all the ones we've had, I'd say Josh has the best chance of making it in that world," he said. "It's a tough industry, but Josh loves it so much. Combine that with his talent at it, and you have an unbeatable combination."
Ball started playing football as a freshman for the Bulldogs. Ball's mother, Colleen Wik, said Ball always loved the game as a kid thanks to the influence of his father, William Ball.
"He'd watch it all the time, but he never played," Wik said of Josh. "Him and his dad would go crazy about football. They'd watch all the games on the weekend."
Ball said that he'd tried sports like baseball and basketball as a child, but never had success. He found a niche in high school football.
After playing on the C-team as a freshman and the junior varsity as a sophomore, Ball got to fill in at varsity center for a few games as a junior.
"That time playing varsity as a junior gave me an idea of what I wanted to come back and do as a senior," Ball said.
Ball spends the summers with his father in Arizona. He lifted weights and swam two or three times a day to get ready for his senior year.
"When I was playing varsity as a junior, I always had doubts about whether I could play or not," Ball said. "The biggest difference as a senior is my confidence. I don't have those doubts anymore."
Clooten also was very impressed with the difference between Ball's junior and senior year.
"Some people take their athletic gifts and use them to the utmost," Clooten said. "I think Josh did that this year."
Ball helped the Bulldogs to a second-place finish in the Great Land Conference and a playoff berth. Saturday, Nikiski's season ended with a loss to Kenai Central in the first round of the playoffs.
Ball said there is a good possibility he will not play any football after high school, but he considers his gridiron experience invaluable.
"Football has been great for me," Ball said. "I learned a lot of lessons on the football field that I could not have learned anywhere else."
While Ball appreciates what football has done for him, his passion is acting.
"He is a natural at it," Wik said. "He's always been good at it, even when he was really little."
Ball started forensics competitions at North Star Elementary and was a force in borough competitions.
"There was nothing else that I was really good at, so getting involved in that was great for me," Ball said.
Ball had leading roles in plays in both fifth and sixth grade at North Star Elementary. As Horace Vandergelder in "Hello, Dolly," Ball memorized 500 lines and seven songs as a fifth grader.
In sixth grade, Rizzo saw Ball play Professor Henry Higgins in a rehearsal for "My Fair Lady."
"I knew that this kid was bound to become a big player in the drama scene at Nikiski," Rizzo said.
In eighth grade, Ball played a supporting role in Rizzo's "An Evening Without Sinatra." As a sophomore, Ball had a leading role in Rizzo's "Thanks for the Memories." The summer before his senior year, Ball had a leading role in Triumvirate Theatre's "Little Nell."
Ball also has made a splash on the Drama, Debate and Forensics team at Nikiski. In addition to winning state medals for the team, Ball has played a big role in earning funds for the team.
At "Encore! Encore!," the Nikiski DDF students perform skits for the crowd. There is a portion of the show where cakes and pies are auctioned off to the crowd to raise money for DDF.
"He's the best cake and pie auctioneer we've had," Rizzo said. "He's just brilliant at it. When you see Josh up on stage, you see how much he loves the adoration of the crowd. It washes over the top of him."
Working as an auctioneer for Drop of the Hat Players, a nonprofit group that helps raise money for people in need, Ball once raised $4,000 in three hours.
"It's awesome when he does that stuff," Wik said. "He makes so much money because he pumps people up. It's a riot."
Ball will take another turn as auctioneer for "Encore! Encore!" on Nov. 22.
While Ball has won multiple state medals in DDF, he has yet to win first place. Ball is hoping to change that this year with a little help from football.
"Football taught me the value of preparation," Ball said. "I learned a lot about how much preparation helps this year. I want to be a lot more prepared for my senior year in DDF."
Ball gets A's and B's at Nikiski. He is the student body president and a member of the National Honors Society.
Next year, Ball would like to move on to college and study biology and acting. He says he will try an acting career. If that doesn't work, he will have biology to fall back on.
"I've had a really good time at this school and that's because I'm really close to the teachers here," Ball said. "I don't take advantage of that closeness, but I think it's a thing I couldn't have gotten anywhere else."
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