Nikiski senior puts athletic skills to use in football, hockey, soccer

Last Frontier's tough Winters

Posted: Tuesday, October 29, 2002

What Nikiski senior Josh Winters did with an old Toyota Tercel tells a lot about what he's been able to do on the athletic field and in the classroom for the Bulldogs.

About a year and a half ago, Winters was a carless high school kid when Beau Hodges, the youth pastor at Peninsula Christian Center in Soldotna, told him: "Be real with God. God wants to take care of you. If you need something, ask him."

Winters sorely needed a car. He was going back and forth from Nikiski to the Peninsula Christian Center four times per week, and he had to put all those miles on the car of his parents.

It so happened that Caleb Plate, a youth leader, was getting ready to sell a Toyota Tercel. Plate decided to give Winters the car instead.

"It was typical Josh," Hodges said. "He took this car, which was worth maybe $2,000, and did all these things to it. He treats it like it's a Corvette.

"Josh has a strong relationship with God. He trusts a lot in God. Everything he does stems from that, whether it's music, athletics or scholastics."

In athletics, for one, Winters has treated his abilities as diligently as he has cared for his Tercel.

"I've just been naturally talented," Winters said. "That's definitely been a blessing from God."

Winters has played football, hockey and soccer while at Nikiski.

Nikiski football coach Lee Moore, who also was a basketball coach at the high school and college level for a number of years, said Winters, listed at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, makes quite a first impression as an athlete.

"I remember him playing basketball in junior high," Moore said. "He could have been an all-state basketball player if he wanted to be.

"Instead, he chose the hockey route."

Winters also chose the football route. Even though he had never played the sport before high school, he saw some time on varsity as a freshman. Moore said that's extremely rare.

As a sophomore, Winters earned enough time at running back to make first team in the Great Land Conference at running back. He rushed 28 times for 238 yards and six touchdowns during the regular season as the Bulldogs won the small-schools state title.

With most of the team back next year, Winters had the chance to roll up even better numbers and be a part of another state championship.

But Winters felt God had other ideas for him.

The summer before Winters' junior year, Hodges took Winters and other teen-agers on a trip to minister to the homeless in Jamaica.

"Josh just flourished on that trip," Hodges said. "After the trip, Josh came to me and said he really felt he should be more involved."

Winters decided to go the home-schooling route his junior year so he could spend time interning with Hodges to learn all about youth ministry.

"I'm glad I did it," Winters said of the internship. "I learned a lot.

"But when I went to football games, I found myself wanting to play."

After home schooling the first semester of his junior year, Winters re-enrolled at Nikiski for the second semester.

"For him, because he's somewhat of a natural athlete, it didn't take him too much time to get back up to speed," said Josh's father, Robin Winters, who was a high school track standout in California.

Robin said Josh works part-time peeling logs for log cabins, a job that takes tremendous aerobic capacity and upper-body strength. Robin said Josh can peel a log in an hour and a half, while it takes the average person four to six hours to peel a log.

Most will peel one or two logs a day, while Josh peels three or four.

"Josh's success as an athlete stems from his mental approach," Hodges said. "He always had a great work ethic.

"Then he grew into this 6-2, fully ripped body. Combine work ethic with ability like that, and you've got state championships."

Josh once again turned that athletic ability loose on the athletic fields the second semester of his junior year, earning all-conference honors at goalie for the second straight season even though he started playing the position in eighth grade.

Winters then earned second-team all-state honors as a running back during his senior year in football. He also was first-team all-GLC at halfback and second-team all-GLC at inside linebacker, rushing 92 times for 503 yards.

All this, and Winters, due to ankle and hip injuries, was healthy for only Nikiski's first game of the year against Houston, when he rushed for 154 yards in a 37-21 road victory.

"He is a phenomenal running back, but people down here never got to fully see that because of his injuries," Moore said. "In that game against Houston, oh man, he was running around people, over people, everything.

"To his credit, he kept trying and trying even though he had a severe ankle injury the majority of the year."

Moore also said Winters was invaluable to the team as a leader.

"In practice, he'd run over one of the younger guys, help him up, and say, 'Hey, nice hit,'" Moore said. "Some of them look at him as a football god, and things like that mean a lot to them."

Both Robin Winters and Hodges also commented on Josh's ability to lead.

Robin said Josh goes out of his way to find activities to keep him and his friends out of trouble. That explains why the three-acre property of Robin and his wife, Denise, is splattered by the paint-ball pellets of Josh and his friends.

Hodges also said the leadership abilities of Winters, who also carries a 3.5 grade-point average, plays the drums and reigns as Nikiski's homecoming king, are apparent in his postgraduation plans.

Winters is one of the 10 or 15 young people selected by Pat Schastline for Mercy Seat Ministries, meaning Winters will get to travel all over the United States sharing his faith. Hodges said Winters could share in front of crowds as big as 10,000 to 15,000 people.

"He really does want to help and please others," Hodges said. "He wants to make a difference with his life.

"He's not the type of person that's going to get a job just because it pays well. He's determined his life is going to count for something."

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