Don’t judge a book … |

Don’t judge a book …

High school librarian also football coach, hockey player

John Vandelinder

— Moffat County High School librarian Jim Neton sits at a desk that is too small for a man who is 5-foot 8 inches tall.

On all sides, books surround him.

All sorts of books.

Books ranging from “King Dork” to “Football for Idiots.”

Neton, a father of three with another on the way, teacher and librarian, freshman football coach and recreational hockey player, laughs as he recites the book titled “Football for Idiots.”

A grin erupts as he says “think I should use this?”

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Neton is proof that despite his immediate surroundings, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

The 38-year-old doesn’t look a day past 25 – one could easily lump him in with the masses of students who file in and out of the Moffat County High School library each day.

He quickly paces around his domain of 10 years with an energy not found in your stereotypical librarian.

He eventually sits down, the wide grin never leaving his face as he spins his wedding band around and around on his finger.

“I love it here in Craig,” he blurts out, eager to chat. “It’s a great place to live.”

Neton is a Wisconsin native, so he says he has always had a hockey mentality buried below his collared shirt and librarian exterior.

He started to skate at 3 years old, handled a puck at 5, and assisted on the conference-championship winning goal as a junior in high school.

“There is something about the feeling of gliding across the ice,” he said. “It’s so much more fluid than running. I got addicted.”

He was captain of the Appleton West Terrors football and hockey teams growing up, and those two sports have stuck with him.

He graduated from a Terror into a Badger when he attended the University of Wisconsin until, as he says, he came to Colorado “on a whim.”

As he leans forward, trying to contain his energy, he describes his initial foray into teaching.

It was in 1993 – when he and a college buddy moved to Trinidad – that Neton got a taste of the educational system.

“It took me a while to figure the teaching thing out,” he said. “Teaching is a messy business. These kids all have something going on in their lives. It took some time to understand the kids. Now, I absolutely love it. There is a lot of fulfillment to be gained through teaching.”

His passion for learning and teaching – as well as another whim – took Neton to Honduras for a few years where he taught English to Honduran kids and learned fluent Spanish along the way.

The problem with Honduras, Neton said, was “there was no hockey south of the equator,” so his whimsical ways brought him back north.

In Colorado’s eastern plains region, he caught the attention of Melany, a first-grade teacher in the Crowley County School District.

“She pursued me,” he said, chuckling. “She wanted me to play in a volleyball league with her, but there was a problem.”

The problem was Neton was part of a hockey team, which had a game scheduled the same evening.

“She learned that if she wants me, hockey was coming along with me,” he said. “It’s a package deal.”

Melany stuck with him and the two eventually played volleyball together – just not on hockey night.

The duo moved to Craig in 1997 – Neton’s third move via the whim – with Neton settling in as the Moffat County High School librarian.

The summer before his new job began, he decided Melany was the one. He proposed on one knee in his small Craig apartment, with a bottle of his brother’s specialty wine. She said yes to the hockey addict, and the couple is now patiently awaiting their fourth child.

“We have three girls,” he said. “We are all hoping for a boy this time around. If we have another girl, I’m building a two-car garage and making it my own little space.”

His priorities are strictly in line: “Family and faith come first,” he says, “Work and coaching second, and hockey last.”

Which is a big change for the man, who as a boy, “tried to keep up with my older brothers on the ice.”

Now, Neton is just trying to keep up with his kids – Molly 6, Alexa 5 and Megan 2 – his lesson plans, his freshman football team and a black rubber disk.

With all the energy he has, Hockey has moved from the forefront to the back burner. Now it’s just a way for him to release the hockey desire from within.

“You can never let go of your competitive nature,” he said. “I have so many things going on in my life now, and hockey is my outlet.”

The librarian has played defense for the Red Dogs hockey team for 10 years, but it’s his love for teaching and coaching Craig youths he defends the most.

He stops fidgeting for the first time and says, “I want to make an impact in my life. Showing students and athletes how to be successful in life is a feeling you can’t replace.”

John Vandelinder can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or