Notre Dame P Tyler Newsome settling into second home

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Tyler Newsome wasn’t expecting to fall in love.

When the lanky punter from Carrollton, Ga. — a sleepy southern town of fewer than 25,000 residents — arrived in northern Indiana in the summer of 2013, he did so without a scholarship offer, or much hope for a future at Notre Dame. He had only been contacted by the Irish coaching staff 10 days earlier, when he received a hasty invitation to a punting and kicking camp taking place on campus.

Newsome’s father suggested they take a look around. “You might go here one day,” he told him.

“I’m like, ‘Dad, I don’t want to go. I’m tired,’ ” Newsome recalled. “I started looking at campus, and I said to myself, ‘If I have the opportunity to go here, I’m going, and I’m never leaving.’

“So they offered, and I haven’t looked back.”

Though he had only been punting for less than a year, Notre Dame’s coaching staff identified the ingredients — a strong leg, a long frame, a tireless work ethic — necessary to cultivate a world-class punter. The Irish offered, and less than 24 hours later, Newsome committed.

And now, in the trenches of his sophomore season, both Newsome and Notre Dame are happy that he did.

“He just needs to settle into the game,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “I think as he gets into the game, he's better and better. His comfort level, as he gets into the game, is better and he feels more comfortable.

“He’s one of our hardest workers in the weight room, and somebody that cares incredibly about what he does.”

Through seven games, Newsome is averaging 43.5 yards per punt, with a long of 62 yards. The first-year starter has rocketed nine punts of at least 50 yards, pinned his opponent inside the 20-yard line 13 times and been credited with two tackles in coverage.

Most recently, he effectively sealed Notre Dame’s 41-31 victory over rival USC last weekend, pinning the Trojans on the edge of their own end zone with a 33-yard punt that landed at the 8-yard line and bounced obediently to the 1.

Together with placekicker Justin Yoon and returner C.J. Sanders, both freshmen, Newsome represents the cannon-legged youth movement Notre Dame's special teams so desperately needed.

And yet, he isn’t satisfied.

“I think so far I’m probably a B-minus,” Newsome said. “I think to get to an A, there’s a lot I need to improve on. Just consistency, things like not out-punting the coverage and getting more hang time. Hopefully, I can continue to work on that, especially as the weather gets colder.”

A historical context might refute Newsome’s stern grading. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound sophomore is on pace to fall just shy of Notre Dame’s school record for punting average, set by Geoff Price — who averaged 45.4 yards per punt in 1996. He’s also set to exceed senior Kyle Brindza’s 2014 marks.

Following a redshirt season spent learning from Brindza and adapting to a second home, Newsome has routinely put his best foot forward. That includes serving as Notre Dame's kickoff man, with 11 touchbacks among his 49 kickoffs.

This love story, it seems, is bound for a happy ending.

“Every day I wake up, I feel like I’m living a dream,” Newsome said. “It’s surreal. This place is so great. I thank God each day I get to wake up and go to Notre Dame and play football here.

“It’s just unreal. I’ve been blessed beyond means.”

mvorel@sbtinfo.com

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Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame’s Tyler Newsome (85) kicks off during the Notre Dame-Clemson NCAA football game on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, Memorial Stadium at Clemson University in Clemson, SC. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN