By: Ryan Wallace - www.vandaliabutlerbaseball.com
VANDALIA – Often
referred to as the “Purple Reign”, the late 1990’s and early 2000’s were truly
a golden era in Butler athletics. The
football team was a perennial playoff power, the basketball team triumphed
through the tournament and the baseball team made a number of District and
One name firmly entrenched in the mix of it all was Josh
While Betts may be best known for his playmaking ability
under the Friday night lights, he was also a big bat and sure glove for the
Aviators at first base from 1999 – 2001.
Betts was a part of an incredibly talented group of Aviators
that went 73-16, won two district titles, and made a D-II Final Four appearance
in Columbus, eventually losing a heartbreaker to Tallmadge.
“That junior year season was by far
the best, as it was the group of guys I had played with since I was 9 years old,
playing with the Vandalia Merchants,” said Betts. “We had an awesome quality group of players
at every position, many great memories with some amazing coaches and friends.”
The 2000 season still remains the best to date, as the
Aviators finished 28-3, making them the winningest team in school history.
As if the games were just played a spring ago, the memories
of those days continue to live on in the mind of Betts.
“There are very vivid memories of many games, both highs and lows throughout my career,” Betts recalled. “Many more successes than failures that will always stick out to me. The Moeller and Coldwater double headers were always great battles that I looked forward to.”
(L-R: Adam Cox, Brett Salsbury, Ben Neely, Nick Feralli, Jerrod Fraley, Brandon Godzik, Tommy Hertlein, Josh Betts) Photo Courtesy of Dayton Daily News
The Next Level
As Betts continued to flourish in all sports, it was his play on the football field that started to get the attention of a number of DI programs at the next level. For Betts, the decision was an easy one to make.
“I had scholarship offers from Akron and Ball State but Miami was hands down my first choice of the three,” said Betts. “The football legacy and academic reputation made it an easy decision. Ultimately, I wanted to know that if my athletic career ended at any time, that I would be able to get the best possible education.”
While Betts still had baseball in his blood, his focus at the next level was locked in on football.
“Honestly, after realizing my opportunity to play Quarterback at Miami, I felt that in order to lead a team and make sure I gave my all, I wanted to focus 100% on that sport,” said Betts. “There was a time early in my college career where I contemplated baseball, but ultimately stayed with just football.”
Though not formally playing, Betts still found a way to get his baseball fix.
“I did convince the baseball players to let me hit batting practice once in a while, as well as watched and supported the Redhawks baseball team during their season,” Betts recalled.
Betts ended his high school football career with another stellar season. As a senior, Betts completed 160 of 262 passes (61 percent) for 2,817 yards, 19 TD's and just four INT's. He was the All-Southwest Ohio Offensive Player of the Year, and was an All-State Second Team selection.
The focus for Betts now, was making the jump to playing football at the collegiate level.
“I think that for any transition to a better level of play that there is a learning curve,” said Betts. “Most of this was focused on the mental aspect of the game, especially for a quarterback. My ability to bench press was not nearly as important as my ability to read a defense, make quick decisions, and lead a team of men down the field. The more time, effort, and reps put in to anything in life will increase one’s ability to be successful.”
After redshirting his freshman season, Betts completed his first collegiate pass in memorable fashion. Facing off against rival Cincinnati, Betts came on to execute a trick play known as "Hootenanny”, which he connected on with tight-end Tyler Vogel, for a dramatic 13-yard touchdown and 31-26 win over the Bearcats.
The successor to Ben Roethlisberger, Betts would take the helm for the Redhawks in 2004, starting at quarterback for his junior and senior seasons. He would become just the second quarterback in school history to throw for 3,000+ yards in a season, a feat that he repeated in 2005.
Much like his recollections of playing days at Butler, it’s not one certain play or game that necessarily sticks out.
“Similar to many of the teams I played on, I feel that I remember so many individual plays throughout my career at Miami,” Betts said. “Certain passes, audibles, touchdowns, big plays all are memories that I cherish. Singing the fight song is still one of the best memories I have and I have passed it on to my boys.”
Moving On Up
After finishing his collegiate career with more 7,000 yards passing, 54 touchdowns and back-to-back bowl appearances, Betts was off to the NFL as an Indianapolis Colt. Much like his early days at Miami University, Betts would take snaps alongside a future Hall of Famer, this time Peyton Manning.
Though his career in the NFL would be limited to 2½ years, it remains an incredibly special time in Betts life, as it was filled with a number of personal and professional milestones.
“The experience of getting the chance to play in the NFL was full of challenges, uncertainties, accomplishments, excitement, and memories that were wrapped up in those two and a half years,” said Betts.
“I could write a short book about my time there, including time spent with Peyton Manning, Jim Sorgi, Tony Dungy, Jim Caldwell, Adam Vinatieri, as well as many others who were an honor to play with and play for. I made some lifelong friends during my playing career.”
In his first season, Betts was a member of the Super Bowl Championship team, as the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears 29-16 in Miami, FL. But a championship ring wasn’t the only ring of significance that year.
“The first year was pretty amazing being able to be part of the Super Bowl Championship team, get engaged, and have my entire family with me in Miami (FL),” recalled Betts. “I will always cherish the memories I had with my grandfather, Dan Kane, who was able to come to Miami (FL) and experience this time with me.”
Betts made his NFL debut in the final pre-season game of the 2006 season, a moment that he can recall with great clarity.
“The first thing was the size of the stadium. Although I had played at OSU, Michigan and an NFL field in Philadelphia, everything about the NFL experience from that view felt bigger, said Betts.
“The good and bad about my first game playing was that I got in for the last drive of the last preseason game against the Bengals at home in Indy. We were able to drive down the field a bit and then we had a play action pass faking to the running back over the right tackle and having double post called to the field on the right. They were playing cover-two, so the outside post converted to a takeoff. The running back missed his assignment to get the outside backer and he came barreling down at me. He lit me up just as I released the ball to the outside receiver. I lifted my head in time to watch the play on the big screen and watched the receiver drop the ball in the end zone. Unfortunately, my next pass was intercepted so instead of ending my first game 4-for-6 with 75 yards and a touchdown, it ended 3-for-7 with 30 yards and a pick.”
“The thing about my time in the NFL was that with limited opportunity, you needed to take advantage of every chance you got and maybe get a little lucky on the way. All in all, a time I will never forget,” said Betts.
Looking back on his college and professional sports career, the enormity of the achievement and sacrifices is not lost on Betts. “I give thanks to all of the coaches and parents who had helped me my entire career,” said Betts.
“As I start to coach my kids, I realize the sacrifice that so many others made to help me become a better ball player as well as a better man. My parents especially have sacrificed so much for me and my siblings and that is something that means more to me than any trophy I could have ever received.”
“Education and my behavior always trumped athletics in my household growing up and I value that so much,” Betts emphasized.
Today Josh Betts is a husband and father of three. He and his wife Kristy live in Dublin, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio with their three children Kane (6), Kamden (4), and Kenley (10 months).
Since moving back from Indiana in 2009, Betts has spent the last eight years working in sales for Zimmer Biomet, a medical device company. It’s a role that allows Betts to play a key role in creating positive impacts on the lives of many.
“I have been blessed with a career that helps people improve their quality of life and allows me to interact with amazing nurses, doctors, and hospital staff, that spend their time helping other people,” said Betts.
A member of the Butler Athletic Hall of Fame inaugural class, Betts has stayed closely connected with his roots. He returned to his alma mater last year, speaking to the football team about the importance of taking control of your future.
“Teenagers and young adults have a very unique opportunity to directly impact their future by choosing to learn new skills and better educate themselves,” said Betts. “Rather than spending summers on their phones and at the pool, taking the initiative to reach out to successful business owners and ask for internship type jobs will reap many benefits as they become contributing members of society. They also need to know that decisions have repercussions and many can be life altering, so understanding when to say no may be the most important thing they learn.”
In looking back at when a teenage Betts was molding his own future, he points back to his time within the Butler Baseball program and the impact that it has made in his own life.
“I want to express how fortunate I was to have the quality of baseball coaching I received from Coach Dues, Clark, Thompson, and Bardonaro,” said Betts. “I hope Butler and the entire Vandalia community recognizes how amazing this group of men are and how influential they are to the boys that go through their program; not only having one of the best head coaches to ever coach the game, but as men who care about helping raise quality individuals. I want to thank them for what they have taught me on the field and in life, and express how much I appreciate their friendship.”
From the nine year old boy playing for the Vandalia Merchants, to Super Bowl Champion, it’s been an incredible ride for Betts — but it’s hard to not think that the best is yet to come.