Highly recruited Kevin Newsome is taking as much time as necessary to pick the college he will attend.
By Doug Doughty
This article is reprinted online with permission from Doug Doughty, a writer for the Roanoke Times. “Hargrave QB Keeps Search Going” first appeared September 12, 2008 in the Roanoke Times.
CHATHAM, VA – For nearly two hours Monday, nobody at Hargrave Military Academy knew Kevin Newsome’s whereabouts.
Cadets were dispatched to the dormitory. He wasn’t there. He had broken a finger on his non-throwing hand, so maybe he was in the infirmary. But, nope, he wasn’t there either.
Finally, through the back door of Hargrave’s auxiliary gymnasium, in strolled Newsome.
Hargrave had just played two football games in four days, so there was no practice Monday. With some free time on his hands, Newsome could have been anywhere, at least as permitted by military-school guidelines.
Turns out, he was in a classroom, catching up on a math assignment.
Hargrave postgraduate coach Robert Prunty has seen players enter his program with a variety of needs — academics, discipline, maturity, exposure — but none applied to Newsome, who carried a 3.7 GPA at Western Branch High in Chesapeake.
Heck, he’s not even a postgraduate.
Newsome, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound quarterback, was a consensus choice as the state’s No. 1 or 2 prospect following the 2007 football season. At this time a year ago, he could not have envisioned a scenario that did not include Western Branch.
“Last year, I pictured myself coming out on Senior Night, going to homecoming, maybe [as] the homecoming king,” said Newsome, who was president of the junior class at Western Branch. “But, sometimes you’ve got to make sacrifices to get where you want to go in life.
“I believed that I would get more discipline. That doesn’t hurt anyone. I hoped to become more responsible, become a better football player and, most of all, become a better man.”
Ras-I Dowling and Brent Vinson, a couple of Tidewater players who had played at Hargrave, were the first to pitch the idea.
It didn’t hurt that Newsome’s mother, Theresa, was familiar with the area. She is a Gretna High School graduate whose family is from Java, no more than a 10-minute drive from Chatham.
Newsome’s mom is a real estate agent and his father, Kevin Sr., is a longshoreman.
“When the guys first told me about Hargrave, I was like, ‘No, I wouldn’t want to go to a military school; this is my senior year,'” Newsome said. “But, then I prayed about it, and I wrote down the pros and the cons and came to the conclusion that this was going to better my life.’
“Some day, I’ll look back and say: ‘Man, I’m glad I did this.'”
As a football prospect, Newsome occasionally found it irritating when recruiting services put him in the “athlete” classification, but that didn’t limit his offers before an April commitment to the University of Michigan.
Newsome was attending Western Branch at the time, but it wasn’t long before both associations were history. By the time Newsome arrived at Hargrave in August, he had decommitted to the Wolverines.
“I was pretty firm with my [original] decision,” he said, “but I sat down with my family and did a little more research and decided, you’ve only got four years to play college football. You better pick the right one.
“Wherever I had committed, I probably would have reopened the recruiting just for the simple fact that I wanted to be sure. It’s not right to be checking out other options when you’re still committed.”
Newsome said he hasn’t ruled out Michigan, although the Wolverines subsequently took a commitment from California quarterback Tate Forcier, and said he hasn’t met his goal of cutting his current list to 13. Virginia Tech is certain to make the next cut.
“I’d rather not talk about frontrunners right now,” he said, “but [Tech has] always been there. I went to camp there after my eighth-grade year and they haven’t stopped recruiting me since.”
Tech’s decision not to redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyrod Taylor would put two years between Taylor and Newsome, three if Newsome were redshirted as a freshman.
“People think that I would be intimidated or scared to go to Virginia Tech because of Tyrod Taylor,” Newsome said, “but, in all honesty, I would love to play behind Tyrod Taylor and learn what he knows. Since I was a young quarterback, I’ve looked up to him in Hampton Roads, just like I looked up to Michael Vick and Ronald Curry and Allen Iverson.
“That’s one program where I would not mind sitting behind someone.”
Prunty has not had a marquee quarterback in his seven seasons at Hargrave, but this year he has two in Newsome and North Carolina recruit A.J. Blue, who took the reins Sunday against Marshall University’s junior varsity.
Blue still gets the “athlete” moniker that Newsome finally is relinquishing.
“Just because of what people think, don’t change yourself,” Newsome said. “If you run a 4.5 40, then use that ability to help your team win. If you can throw the ball 75 yards, then use that ability to help your team win.”
Does that mean Newsome can run a 4.5 and has 75-yard range?
“Well, I’ll say 70, just to be safe,” he said. “If you’re an intelligent player who knows the concepts and schemes of football, then use that also. Put all three together — the feet, the arm and the mind — and you’re a true quarterback.”
Prunty thinks he knows where Newsome got the “athlete” label.
“The problem was, because he ran track, everybody associated him with being an athlete,” Prunty said. “That’s the only thing I can think of. He throws a great ball. His fundamentals have improved tremendously. He can read defenses. He’s the complete package.”
Prunty thinks Newsome has benefited from playing against a Hargrave schedule that includes junior varsity teams from Navy, East Carolina, Marshall and Tennessee, but Newsome would never knock the schedule he faced in the Southeastern District.
“Still the hardest game I ever played was against Oscar Smith High School,” Newsome said.
Oscar Smith is ranked 15th in the country and defeated Western Branch 48-6 last week. The opportunity to play for longtime Western Branch coach Lew Johnston was one reason the Newsomes moved to the Western Branch zone, but Johnston retired after the 2006 season and was replaced by Scott Johnson.
Newsome did not have the same kind of rapport with the new staff that he had with the old one.
“That’s a good way of putting it,” Johnston said.
Newsome’s younger brother, Keevon, enrolled at Churchland High School in Norfolk and is a promising tight end. He will be joining the family next week for a trek to State College, Pa., for the Michigan-Penn State game. Penn State is one of the schools that is recruiting Newsome most heavily.
Other schools he mentioned were Tech, North Carolina, Tennessee, Boston College and Illinois.
Newsome admits that his college choice could come down to a gut feeling, but he has been doing his research, checking rosters on line and alerting himself to the quarterback situation at the schools he is considering.
“Certainly, rosters come into play,” he said. “There’s a difference between confidence and stupidity. You don’t want to go into a system where nine quarterbacks have been there for three years. You want to have a fair shot.”
One of the benefits of going to Hargrave is the school’s seclusion. Cadets are allowed to have cellphones, but they can’t be texting or e-mailing at will.
“It’s been a time of maturing,” said Newsome, who smiles and laughs easily. “I came here as a boy and I feel I’ll be leaving here a man, a man who’s done 1,000 push-ups.”