When a person proves to be a hardworking student-athlete who can make the best of any situation, regardless of the circumstance, good things usually follow for said person.
As an unselfish teammate on the gridiron and as a studious worker in the classroom, Wheelersburg’s Keaton Newsome exemplified the qualities of what it takes to be a successful high school student-athlete.
Following several recruiting visits to Marshall University, the Thundering Herd football program saw those very traits in the quintessential Pirate athlete. That led to the offering of a preferred walk on position with the Herd, which Newsome officially accepted on Sunday afternoon.
For the 6-0, 195-pounder, the ability to be able to continue his football career and his academic career at the school of his dreams brings great elation to one of the Pirates’ key members.
“It’s a huge blessing to be able to continue playing the game I love,” Newsome said. “It has always been a childhood dream of mine to play a Division I sport, and I’m just very blessed that I can make that dream a reality. Marshall has always been where I’ve wanted to go to college and now, I get the opportunity to not only attend the university of my dreams, but I also get to continue playing the game of football. All I can say is that God has truly blessed me with this opportunity, and I’m very thankful.”
However, as far as Rob Woodward is concerned, it’s an opportunity that Newsome earned through his own attention to detail.
“Keaton knew where he wanted to go, and that was Marshall,” Woodward said. “I happened to be with him on one of the visits that he took there. He got to know the coaching staff, and I really just sat back and saw how he worked to create an opportunity for himself. There’s nobody more ready to take a spot, and do something special with it, than Keaton Newsome is.”
Over the course of his career, Newsome, who was a dedicated member of the football, basketball, and baseball programs while with Wheelersburg, never wowed with eye-popping stats on the gridiron simply because it wasn’t necessary due to the talent and depth that has been present in the Pirates’ football program. However, Marshall’s newest pickup did something that was arguably more important to the success of the team by contributing where the team need him to.
As a running back, Newsome obtained an impressive 6.7 yards per carry average despite only receiving 75 touches on the ground (gaining 506 yards and scoring five touchdowns while doing so). He averaged 26.7 yards per catch as a receiver and made 14 tackles on defense. And lastly, there’s the ever-important long-snapping duties that Newsome performed, which may be the most underrated job in all of football — all important qualities to a Wheelersburg squad that went 48-6 with three consecutive (ongoing) SOC II Championships and a Division V, Region 17 Championship in 2015.
“Keaton was a vital part of our program during his four years of high school football,” Woodward said. “He’s filled a number of roles throughout his career, none bigger than in his senior season and the job that he did in all facets of the game for us, and as a leader on our football team.”
“Definitely, that is a great tool to have,” Newsome said when discussing the subject of versatility. “The athleticism and flexibility to be able to play multiple positions was one of the main things the Marshall coaching staff liked about me, and hopefully, those traits will give me a better opportunity to see playing time in the future.”
Besides his flexibility, however, Newsome’s work ethic is also strong. The senior attended various college football camps in order to get noticed and even took the time to maintain his own Hudl page, where his measureables — 4.66 in the 40-yard dash, a 32-inch vertical, and a 4.2 shuttle time — are certainly stout for any college athlete.
“The story behind Keaton is about his drive to achieve his own dreams and to create an opportunity for himself,” Woodward said. “A lot of people, in today’s society, feel like the opportunities that you get at the next level fall on the high school coaches, but really, the player has to create those opportunities. You’ve got to go out and find those colleges that you’re interested in, and show your own personal interest, as a player, to those coaching staffs and how you want to be a part of their program. Keaton has been instrumental in creating those opportunities for himself. He’s gone out, visited a number of schools, attended special teams camps where he’s been ranked with other players in regards to his long-snapping. I can’t say enough about that. That’s so important in trying to find a team that you can be a part of.”
However, Newsome’s work ethic wasn’t just confined to the football field. In fact, Newsome finished in the top 10 percent of his class academically at Wheelersburg — all while balancing three sports.
“A lot of people miss the fact on how important academics are for creating those next-level opportunities, and Keaton has done a great job in the classroom,” Woodward said. “College coaches are willing to take a chance on a player who shows that he’s got the work ethic in the classroom, and Keaton certainly has that.”
But having been a part of three SOC II titles and a regional championship with the Wheelersburg football program, Newsome knows that it’s not just him.
“There’s truly nothing like being a Wheelersburg Pirate,” Newsome said. “It’s such an awesome community. The football program has a ton of tradition and that’s another reason why Marshall felt so at home for me. The rich tradition at Marshall reminds me a lot of Wheelersburg. (Rob) Woodward is one great guy to learn under. He’s always been a role model of mine. The way he carries himself and how he handles things is definitely something everyone can take notes on. I owe a lot of my success thus far to the coaching staff at Wheelersburg. They put in countless hours and always looked for ways for me to improve. I owe a lot to them for molding me into the man I’ve become today and always believing in me. It is a lot easier to chase a dream when you have such supportive people like them behind you.”
Woodward, however, is equally grateful to have coached a ambitious student-athlete like Newsome who has his goals set in stone.
“Keaton knows who he is as person,” Woodward said. “He knows what he wants. You’ve got to have that stability in your life to go and be challenged like he’ll be challenged in college football, because there’s so much work that goes into it. Having that stability and understanding who you are as an individual can catapult you and boost you into that spot, and I know Keaton will work hard to strive for success because of that.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7