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Throwing past stereotypes

Senior quarterback AJ Newsome commits to Mississippi Valley State University

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Throwing past stereotypes

Senior AJ Newsome (4) runs the ball during the away game at McKinney Boyd.

Senior AJ Newsome (4) runs the ball during the away game at McKinney Boyd.

Photo by Valerie Benzinger

Senior AJ Newsome (4) runs the ball during the away game at McKinney Boyd.

Photo by Valerie Benzinger

Photo by Valerie Benzinger

Senior AJ Newsome (4) runs the ball during the away game at McKinney Boyd.

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Regulation ends with the score tied at 20. The game heads to overtime. After two overtime periods, the game is still tied. His team scores on the first possession of triple overtime. He stands watching the game from the sidelines as his defense comes onto the field. After stopping the opposing team on first and second down and sacking the quarterback on third down, the defense has forced 4th and 14. The opposing quarterback snaps the ball, settles himself in the pocket, and as he launches the ball toward the end zone, it falls incomplete. He comes rushing onto the field from the sidelines to celebrate the teams first playoff victory in over a decade against Keller with his teammates.

As the football team prepared for its 2018 season, senior quarterback AJ Newsome transferred onto the team in May. Newsome joining made an impact on the team which resulted in the players making the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. His leadership, athletic ability and arm talent helped the team win in the first round of playoffs against Keller before losing to runner-up state champ Duncanville in the second round.

[He was able to] mesh in with the players and buy into what the coaches were doing really easily because of his work ethic and leadership.”

— head coach Michael Odle

“[My teammates speaking highly of my leadership abilities] is a big deal to me,” Newsome said. “As a quarterback, you have to have your team on your side. I try to establish some type of relationship with everyone. When I came here, the whole team was pretty accepting so it was pretty easy to establish a relationship with these guys.”

Although scouts overlook him because of his 5’11 height, AJ was awarded a full-ride football scholarship to Mississippi Valley State University, his grandfather’s alma mater. The university has a history of taking overlooked players including NFL Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deacon Jones and helping them achieve greatness.

“I want to make a bigger impact [than Jerry Rice did] on the football field,” Newsome said. “It’s going to take a lot of work and it’s not going to be easy but I’m up to the challenge.”

Newsome’s leadership ability inspired his teammates at the beginning of the season and carried on throughout it. Even though last year was his first year in Lewisville, AJ made a lasting impact on the football team.

“He came in and became a part of the community because of those great leadership skills,” head football coach Michael Odle said. “[He was able to] mesh in with the players and buy into what the coaches were doing really easily because of his work ethic and leadership.”

Newsome’s teammates have respect for his character off the field. Newsome expects dedication from himself and everyone around him.

“I think [AJ] is going to be very good in college football,” senior offensive tackle Nick Nielsen said. “He does everything he’s supposed to [and] he’s just a good person to be around.”

When I first started playing quarterback and I wasn’t able to start, I had doubts, but my dad instilled a really hard work ethic in me that’s separated me from everybody else.”

— senior AJ Newsome

Newsome has looked up to players who are also undersized for the quarterback position. Short quarterbacks who have come into the NFL throughout the last 20 years including Michael Vick, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have paved the way for AJ and his career.

“If you can play, you can play, that’s how I feel about it,” Newsome said. “You can’t measure work ethic. A shorter guy knows he has to do everything, running and throwing, cause there’s no exception and no excuses for guys that size. There’s always going to be that old stereotype in football where the guy who’s 6’4 just drops back pocket passer type guys.”

After his career at the Valley comes to an end, Newsome hopes to proceed to the professional level. Whether it’s the NFL, XFL or the CFL, he is committed to going pro.

“The work that I’m going to put in [is what’s going to make me successful],” Newsome said. “When I first started playing quarterback and I wasn’t able to start, I had doubts, but my dad instilled a really hard work ethic in me that’s separated me from everybody else.”

Although Newsome has played quarterback for most of his life, there are still coaches who try to have him change positions. Being a quarterback is where his heart is and he is committed to playing the position through his career.

“I wanted to change positions to get more reps and be a star on the team and really show people what I could do, but my dad didn’t let me,” Newsome said. “He said ‘You’re a quarterback, stay a quarterback, don’t give this up, this is what we’ve been training for.’ It was a very down time for me but he kept me motivated.”

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