MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It was a big decision; a lot to put on the plate of an eighth grader.

Where to go to school?

A talented football player with high potential, Josh Aune had to choose: stay home at St. Paul Highland Park — a good school, but not exactly a football factory — or go somewhere else more known for producing college prospects.

“Everybody has those thoughts throughout their high school career. But there was never a thought in my mind where I’d ever transfer out of Highland Park. The community here is so strong, my brother went to high school here, my little sister’s going to high school here, so I was always part of this community,” Aune said. “You’re going be found if you’re that good. If you’re a big fish in a small pond, they’re still going to find you.”

Josh Aune (credit: CBS)

Fast forward to his senior year and it’s impossible to miss him. He’s Highland Park’s do-everything player.

And next year, he will be the first St. Paul public school player on scholarship for the Minnesota Golden Gophers since Thomas Tapeh in 2003.

“That is an incredibly big deal to me. I have such a sense of pride in my community, and I felt so great being able to come back to school the next week after I got the scholarship and saying … ‘I did this, and it’s not just for me, I’m going to make the community proud.'”

A true hometown kid, Aune says it’s his dream to play for the Gophers — but that can wait.

“There’s a lot to focus on next year, but it’s staying in the here and now. I still have work to take care of here at Highland Park and I want to win football games, and I want to do that any way I can,” he said. “Here is where I’m supposed to be, and it played out very well for me.”