Former Penn State QB Newsome looks for second chance at Temple
PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Kevin Newsome and his carefully plotted course to big-time college football crashed before a preseason practice at Penn State in August 2010 - the season he fully expected to spend as the starting quarterback.
Newsome and the other quarterbacks were summoned to the office of the head coach, where Joe Paterno told the group that true freshman Rob Bolden would be the starter. Newsome, a sophomore, handled the moment graciously, shaking Bolden's hand and telling the newcomer he would do anything to help him.
Newsome grabbed his gear, put it on more slowly than usual and headed to the practice field for warm-ups. Then, he dissolved into tears, and said to a consoling teammate: "What do I tell my brother?"
He walked the sideline for most of the season, throwing just 13 passes and completing six. He did not go with the team to that year's Outback Bowl, and disconsolately walked away from State College in August of 2011.
That is the thin exterior of the story. But at its core is a messy mix of overconfidence, immaturity, bruised ego, depression, the expectations of others, and murmurs of a bad throwing motion.
Kevin Newsome says he is working on all of that. Temple University and head football coach Steve Addazio hope so. Newsome joins the Owls for the 2012 season. He wants to be their quarterback.
"Things went wrong for me at Penn State, because I took too many things for granted," said Newsome, who is back home in Virginia and taking classes at Tidewater Community College. He will bring two seasons of eligibility to Temple.
"I came there, and you know, it was like, 'Ah, Kevin Newsome is a star.' And I was young . . . I just wasn't prepared for the stage I was going to."
Newsome expected to be handed the Nittany Lions' starting position as a sophomore, replacing the graduated Daryll Clark.
"I was a little shocked," Clark said of learning that Newsome wouldn't be the starter. "But I also warned him before I left about the competition that was coming in.
"I told him that there would be a competition . . . they didn't give me the job right away. They made me compete for it with Pat Devlin and I won it."
In the summer of 2009, Clark was a counselor at the Elite 11 quarterback camp, which featured the top high school quarterbacks for the Class of 2010. Clark recalls Bolden being the most impressive player at the camp.
Clark talked to Newsome when he was back at Penn State.
"I said, 'Listen, when you finally get that chance to showcase your talent, you make sure you leave no doubt in any player's mind, in any coach's mind that you are running this team next year,' " Clark recounted. "'Because if you don't, Bolden will steal that diamond.' That's what I warned him about."
And that's what happened.
Newsome easily summons the memory of crushing devastation with the news. While on one knee watching practice, he thought of his little brother, Keevon, who's now a redshirt freshman defensive end at Richmond.
"That's when I started crying," Newsome said. "I mean crying on the field. I had my pads on, my helmet on, my number 12 [jersey] on. And my tears are literally imprinted in the Penn State practice field when I mention how I'm going to tell my little brother, because that's my best friend in the world.
"But I'm his big brother. I'm supposed to be his leader."
A long slide
That's when Newsome believes he fell into a depression, in the autumn of 2010. Other than going to practice, he mostly stayed in his room. The only thing he wanted to do was write rap songs and create music to go with them.
Newsome said the 3.2 grade-point average he carried as a freshman slipped to a 2.4 at the conclusion of his sophomore year.
"Every time I stepped into Penn State's football building, I was hurt, I was sad," he said. "I was bitter. I had resentment."
Mulling over his future in Happy Valley, Newsome did not travel with the team to that season's Outback Bowl. He returned for spring practice, but wasn't considered a front-runner to win the starting job. So he decided to transfer in August to Tidewater CC, which doesn't have a football team.
"I can honestly say that I wasn't in favor of Penn State," said Lew Johnston, Newsome's football coach at Western Branch High School in Chesapeake, Va., and something of a legend in the football-rich Tidewater area.
"Being a big Virginia Tech guy was part of it. But I never felt comfortable being a native Virginian encouraging kids to leave the state."
He believes out-of-state athlete have to be head-and-shoulders better than their teammates to win key position battles.
"[Chesapeake's] Phillip Sims is a classic example down in Alabama," he said. "[He and A.J. McCarron of Mobile, Ala.,] were even. But guess what, the native son is the kid that gets picked [to play quarterback].
"That's happened so many times with kids around here."
Even as a highly recruited, nationally ranked prep player, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Newsome wasn't viewed as a classically gifted quarterback. Some observers questioned his throwing motion. The same discussion went on at Penn State, according to some around the team. Lew Johnston doesn't buy it.
"He's one of the two or three best quarterbacks I've ever coached," said Johnston. "He's not picture-perfect. But they say, 'Kevin is too long winding up.' And I'm going, 'He throws 65 yards down the field in the wind and he hits the guy in stride. What do you want?' "
Newsome was maneuvered to enhance his profile with recruiters. He transferred for his senior year to Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, which sends football and basketball players to big-time programs. Newsome was a premier recruit, getting offers from many of the most illustrious programs.
He might have become a Hokie if Kevin Rogers had remained Virginia Tech's quarterbacks coach. Rogers, who coincidentally was named Temple's associate head coach and quarterbacks coach last month, is Lew Johnston's friend and former William & Mary teammate.
Rogers helped the likes of Donovan McNabb and Marvin Graves at Syracuse. And he developed Bryan Randall and Marcus Vick during his four seasons at Virginia Tech. But while Newsome was a sophomore at Western Branch, Rogers left Virginia Tech to become the quarterbacks coach for the Minnesota Vikings.
Newsome committed to Michigan as a junior in high school before decommitting and choosing Penn State on Dec. 16, 2008.
Once Newsome enrolled in classes as an early admittance student in January 2009, he was regarded by some as Penn State's quarterback of the future.
More than football
Kevin and Theresa Newsome raised their two sons and a nephew, Tory Womack, to be well-rounded. Young Kevin Newsome is more than just an athlete. He is an accomplished pianist and violinist and sings in the gospel choir of his church. He produces his own rap music. He is a history buff. Drive around the Tidewater region with him and he will discuss the Roman Empire. He finds an encyclopedia easy reading.
"Whenever he comes to visit me, we very seldom talk about football," said Brenda Cobb, who was Newsome's freshman geometry teacher at Western Branch. "We talk grades. We talk about what you are doing."
When Newsome visited Western Branch two weeks ago, they talked about Temple. As a Willingboro native, Cobb is familiar with Temple.
A fan of neo-soul music and of the Rocky movies, Newsome told Cobb he can't wait to move to the 'big city.'"
But why Temple?
"Against Penn State, they played hard every time," Newsome said of the Owls. "And with [Temple] coach Steve Addazio and [former Temple] coach Al Golden, I could tell Temple is a tough team. I noticed that at Penn State.
"And when I left Penn State, I remembered that. And I showed Temple my interest." Newsome e-mailed Temple's coaching staff.
Newsome took his official visit to North Broad Street on Jan. 5, and was impressed with offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, who has since been hired at Auburn.
"At Temple, they weren't flashy," he said. "They were straight to the point. What really sold me was talking to Coach Addazio about his offensive schemes and what he wants to do this season."
Newsome admits to having second thoughts after Loeffler went to Auburn. But that's when Newsome thought back to something Joe Paterno told him when he transferred.
"Joe told me to make sure I go somewhere where they really want me," he said. "And Coach Addazio showed that he really wanted me."
The disappointment that Newsome had of not playing for Loeffler was erased when Rogers was hired as quarterbacks coach last month.
"I guess God has a plan," Newsome said.
Now, the glow Newsome exhibits when talking about Temple contrasts with the hurt he reveals when discussing what went wrong at Penn State.
His father thinks it is a natural process of growing up.
"Kevin has always had a lot of accomplishments," Kevin Newsome Sr. said. "And at times, his accomplishments might have been moving a little faster than his maturity maybe.
"Sometimes you just got to get through a few bumps in the road to grow up."
Role at Temple
Steve Addazio said Chris Coyer, the offensive MVP of the New Mexico Bowl, is the No. 1 quarterback heading into training camp for the 2012 season. Addazio describes football as a competitive game and the best players are the ones on the field. But Addazio is eager to have Newsome.
"He is an experienced, older veteran guy, who fits our system to a T," Addazio said of Newsome. "Big, strong, fast guy, who has great character and has been there before."
With that said, one can only assume the Owls would try to find ways to get Newsome on the field - if Coyer retains his starting spot.
"I would be opposed to that in the sense that I feel like I can be a great quarterback," Newsome said of a position switch. "I know I'm a winner. I know I can win it in the last minute, the last play of the game . . .. I believe in myself.
"But on the other hand, I want to do anything to put Temple in the best [position] to win."
One of his former teammates believes Newsome can become Temple's starter.
"It's just a matter of his getting a fair shake and an opportunity," Clark said. "And I feel once he's able to get that, Temple will really be able to see what kind of player and person he really is."
As Clark sees it, Newsome's demeanor could become his biggest obstacle, if he takes things for granted like he did at Penn State.
"Kevin just has to decide if he wants to be the starting quarterback," Clark said.
Kevin Newsome plays Adele's "Someone Like You" on piano, and talks about life after Penn State and Temple football. Video by Ed Hille, Staff Photographer.