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The best and the brightest

Dawson-Bryant senior joins U.S. Army All-American Marching Band

COAL GROVE — A Dawson-Bryant High School student received a prestigious honor on Thursday as he was inducted into an elite group.

Brandon Neff, 17, a senior at the school has been selected for the 2017 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band.

Neff, who plays the trumpet, and a Sousaphone when marching, will join the group, comprised of only 125 high school members from the millions of band students in the nation’s schools.

Representatives of the group were on hand at the school to honor Neff at a school assembly, while his family and classmates watched.

“This is one of the biggest honors in the history of Dawson-Bryant High School,” principal Dean Mader said before introducing the guests.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Geber spoke of the nature of the honor for Neff.

“Only the best and the brightest can be soldiers, as only the best and the brightest can be part of the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band,” he said. We are proud to have him as a member of our group.”

Tom Zerkel, the school’s band director, said Neff would perform with the band at this year’s U.S. Army-All American Bowl game.

“He will represent our school at the national level,” Zerkel said. “It is the experience of a lifetime to accomplish this.”

Upon accepting his honor and his spot in the band, Neff was presented with a jacket.

“I want to thank Dawson-Bryant schools for encouraging me,” he said. I couldn’t have done it without them. I want to thank my family for giving me their support and I want to thank God, who I could not have done it without.”

Neff praised Zerkel for his encouragement.

“He’s been like another father to me,” he said. “He’s always looked out for me.”

Neff, the son of Robert and Karen Reed, of Coal Grove, said he has been playing the tube for about six years.

Before the assembly wrapped up, Neff played a short piece on the tuba, as he was filmed by TV cameras.

Asked about the honor, he said he was “more excited than anything.”

He said, whether he continues at a professional level or not, he will keep playing.

“I’m going to do music,” he said. “Whether it a major or not.”

The U.S. All_Army American Bowl game is set for Jan. 7, 2017 in San Antonio, Texas and will air live on NBC at 1 p.m. EST.