Jonathan Newsome spent his football formative years playing for a prep powerhouse in Ohio before being recruited to play at the Midwest’s most renowned college program.
Keith Wenning didn’t start for his small high school program until his senior season and was ignored by the seven Mid-American Conference programs in his own state.
So it’s a bit surprising to hear Cardinal coach Pete Lembo state that Newsome’s journey was the more challenging of the two upon both being selected in the 2014 NFL Draft this weekend.
“They are two very different guys, from very different backgrounds,” Lembo said. “They took very different paths to this point. John obviously took a very different route than Keith, but arguably, had a much tougher road.”
Newsome acknowledged Saturday that his transgressions at both Ohio State, where he spent his first two seasons, as well as Ball State, where he spent his final three years, were on him completely. He was suspended two games with the Cardinals after being arrested for marijuana possession, which followed his being held on a warrant related to an incident when he and a teammate were accused of shoplifting at a Muncie store.
“For about an hour (in an interview), he went through it from A to Z, man to man, eye to eye,” Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said of Newsome. “He was very, very forthright. We had another discussion (Saturday) about all that stuff.”
If you focus on the monotonous narrative where a supremely-talented athlete doesn’t appreciate – or take advantage of – his opportunities and allows a promising career to go awry, then you’re walking out halfway through the movie telling Jonathan Newsome’s story.
It ends well. And the fact that he was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the fifth round is only a portion of that happy ending.
“John had a few steps back,” Lembo said. “He needed to change his mindset and start to become a little more self-reliant. And he was able to do that.”
Lembo, Cardinal assistant Joey Lynch, as well as former Ball State assistants Chad Wilt and Jay Bateman, spent a lot of one-on-one time with Newsome off the field lending guidance in his life. The end result was that the once wayward Newsome grew into a hard-working, focused mature college graduate.
“He has grown,” Pagano said. “He has matured and he’s learned from his mistakes. Now he’s got an opportunity that we’ve given him and he’s ready to take full advantage of that opportunity.”
Lembo said that Newsome will serve as a role model for future Cardinal players for a number of his achievements, certainly not just for being drafted.
“It’s good incentive for some of these guys coming up through the ranks who saw Keith and John and what they did and how they did it,” Lembo said. “In John’s case, not good all of the time, but it was good to see that an opportunity still presented itself.”
Newsome sent Lembo a heartfelt and lengthy text this winter thanking him and the Cardinal program for all that he had done to impact his life. It was at that point, where the coach felt the most pride in his former student-athlete, not in watching him make a tackle or being selected by the Colts.
“I’m definitely more proud of what he’s become as a person,” Lembo said, “and the fact that he has his degree in his hand. It certainly wasn’t a guarantee that was going to happen three years ago.
“There were plenty of challenges along the way, but you always saw the good in him as a person. You always felt like he was an honest guy. John really met us halfway after a couple of trying times.
“You could argue that he has come as far in three years as any guy that we’ve had. So there is a lot to be proud of there.”