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Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Early look helps PSU with OL Newsome

By Josh Moyer

Grant Newsome (McLean, Va./The Lawrenceville School) hadn't counted on a visit from Penn State last November. The 2015 offensive tackle, in just his second year playing football, wasn't even sure he'd start until a few months before.

His mind was less focused on scholarships and more in tune with the playbook, picking up new plays and learning new responsibilities. But, while wallking briskly to the cafeteria one day, he felt the phone buzz in his pocket -- and, in a text, his coach told him he had a visitor. His first-ever visitor.

PSU assistant Jon Strollo reclined inside his coach's classroom while Newsome took a detour from lunch. He was halfway in denial and halfway excited that someone had driven about 200 miles just to say hello.

"I was obviously very surprised -- very surprised -- and just honored that he would take time out of his schedule to speak with me," Newsome said. "They were actually the first team to reach out to me, and that definitely plays a factor.

"I'm considering every school right now since it's pretty early, but it's a factor that they came around first. It's important when someone's the first that has faith in you."

Other teams have caught on about the 6-foot-7, 280-pound prospect since Penn State's early visit. Word of the coachable lineman with a big frame, impressive flexibility and unique athleticism slowly leaked out of the New Jersey boarding school. Rutgers became the first to offer, but he's earned five others to this point: Old Dominion, Penn State, Temple, Virginia and Wake Forest.

He still has to pinch himself every so often because the reality he'll be playing for an FBS team still hasn't set in -- even after dominating at camps (such as PSU's on June 1), chatting with head coaches and visiting every school that's offered except for Old Dominion and Temple.

The longtime baseball player plans to visit North Carolina, Duke and Stanford this summer before quieting down his recruitment. But, even after that, there's no guarantee any of this will feel real for Newsome. That day with Strollo almost seemed like a dream, and they continue to touch base every other week. But, still, it hasn't sunk in.

"I don't know what it would take for it to hit me," Newsome said. "I wasn't expecting any of this, but my high school coach believed in me. And I just feel honored every day."

His father, Leon, played defensive end and tight end for Princeton -- so football ran in his blood. But Newsome grew up taller and bigger than other kids his age, so he would've been forced to play with the older kids if he took to the gridiron. His father didn't warm up to that idea until high school; Newsome just always figured he'd play when he reached ninth grade.

He wasn't sure just how much time he'd see his sophomore season, but he was aiming for the one opening for a starting job. Four seniors returned on the line, but his coach plugged him in on the first team midway through camp -- and Newsome never left that spot. He obviously doesn't plan to for the next two seasons, either.

"Now that I'm on it, I obviously don't want to get off it," he said matter-of-factly.

The idea of even playing football is newer to him than most prospects, so it's no surprise Newsome remains early in his recruitment. He holds no favorites and is simply trying to visit as many schools he can and find the place he feels most comfortable.

He has no strict list of criteria. For now, he's just trying to tour each school with an open mind. Newsome hasn't yet thought about what games, if any, he might attend this season. But, every so often, he still thinks back to that first visit and the start of his recruitment.

"We still stay in contact pretty frequently, and he's been up a few times," Newsome said, referring to Strollo. "Penn State's just a program with a lot of tradition and history. And, playing in the Big Ten conference, it's just a great football school. I think they're really set up there for the upcoming years."