Punter at the podium? Notre Dame's Tyler Newsome captivates media

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Podium sessions are coveted for the media circus that surrounds the Notre Dame football team.

Those “center of the universe” interview opportunities are reserved for head coach Brian Kelly, of course, maybe a quarterback – or two, if that happens to be the case – and, last year, linebacker extraordinaire Jaylon Smith commanded that distinction of ultimate attention.

One safe bet: In the history of those media briefings in the Irish football facility, a punter has never been placed on center stage.

Until Thursday. Tyler Newsome, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound redshirt sophomore with his shoulder-length hair tucked in a bun atop his head (could he be considered 6-4 then?), settled into the eye of the media storm without giving it any thought.

While many players feel “sentenced” to a media appearance – normally about seven players per availability a day – they trickle into the facility’s auditorium and are content to be in the audience seats while the media crowds around.

That’s not who Newsome, a native of Carrollton, Ga., is. Notre Dame media folks who arrange the sessions chuckle. They know Newsome, who had a 44.5-yard average and 21 inside the 20-yard line on 55 punts, has thoughts that he has no trouble sharing.

So….. While a gaggle of more than 20 media members shoved cameras, mics and every other sort of recording device in his face, Newsome broke out in a big smile and let it roll.

Watch highlights from Notre Dame's practice Thursday morning:

Newsome talked at length about confidence; the development he’s made from last year; the loneliness of a punter during a long hot practice; his quest to match former Irish punter Ben Turk’s pro-day audition of 26 weight lifting reps of 225 pounds (he came to the Irish two summers ago lifting eight, and now has done 23); having five roommates from around the country; packing away the bright multi-colored shorts in which he showed up for camp in favor of drab Under Armour issue; and a musical taste that ranges from John Fogerty to Tupac to Alan Jackson.

“I’m a huge music guy,” he said. “I’ve got 1,500 songs on my phone. I’m all over the place (in terms of favorite genre).”

For a self-professed “free spirit,” Newsome is also a deep thinker with a strong spiritual side.

“I’m just living life to the fullest and trying to make the most of the opportunity I’ve been blessed with,” he said. “I love Notre Dame so much. I don’t want to leave anything undone.

“My mom, she always said, ‘Go after what you’re passionate about; chase your dream. If you do what you love, the rest will fall into place.

“Live life to the fullest. You never know when the last day will be.’”

That message hit way too close to home over the past couple weeks when two members of the punting fraternity – Nebraska’s Sam Foltz and Mike Sadler, who had graduated from Michigan State – were killed in a car accident after attending a camp in Wisconsin. Newsome said he knew Sadler well, having trained with him a couple years ago.

“You never know when God is going to call you for your last day,” Newsome said. “God just needed two punters with him in heaven. Make the most out of every day.”

That free spirit makes the most of each day by being a goal-oriented fella bent on improving himself.

“I’m a big goal-setter,” Newsome said. “I write all my goals down on my mirror. I have weekly goals I set, like I call my mom every day. Five-week goals. Monthly goals. Season goals. Five-year goals.”

That’s one crowded mirror.

“They’re on my mirror; they’re all over the place; in my locker,” Newsome said. “Wherever I go, I’m constantly reminded of it.”

He didn’t say if a podium session was written down anywhere.

But, maybe it should have been.

Tyler Newsome punts during the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium on April 16, 2016. (Tribune photo/MICHAEL CATERINA)