What a hospital stay sparked inside new Notre Dame captain Tyler Newsome

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — You’ll have to excuse the language.

It wasn’t Tyler Newsome’s fault.

How else would you expect a 16-year-old kid from Carrollton, Ga., to react when you tell him his football career might be over? When his pelvis is broken, his ribs are broken, his tailbone is fractured, his spleen is ruptured and his future is suddenly crushed by a careening hunk of metal? When the car accident that landed him in an Atlanta hospital for 17 days also dented the part of his brain tasked with properly digesting disappointment?

Unfortunately for Newsome’s doctor, the future Irish punter’s filter was helplessly fractured, too.

“The part of my brain that had a concussion cut off my filter,” Newsome explained on Tuesday, minutes after Notre Dame wrapped up its first practice of the spring. “So I was pretty much saying whatever I wanted. The doctor was like, ‘You may never play football again.’

“I was like, ‘Get the f**k out of my room.’ ”

Eventually, Newsome followed his own instructions. The Semper-Fidelis All-American was named to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Class AAAA all-state team in 2013. He accepted a football scholarship to Notre Dame. He traveled nearly 700 miles north from a small town in Georgia to South Bend.

He was healed.

But he wasn’t the same.

“I told myself, if I ever have an opportunity and a platform to really make an impact on a child or someone in a community, that’s one of the main goals of mine,” said Newsome, who can’t forget the faces of the kids he met during those 17 days. “That’s something that drives me.”

Newsome is driven. Need proof? In 2016, he earned the football program’s Irish Around the Bend Award for community service. That same year, the Atlantic Coast Conference honored him with the Top Six for Service Award, which celebrates dedication to community and outreach programs. In the 2016-17 academic year, he was one of five Notre Dame student-athletes to receive the university’s Community Champion Award, and the first football player to do so since Mike Golic Jr. in 2012-13. He was also a 2017 nominee for the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team.

Need more proof? On Tuesday, along with linebacker Drue Tranquill and center Sam Mustipher, he was named a 2018 Notre Dame captain.

“It’s definitely one of the biggest honors of my lifetime,” said Newsome, his dark blonde mullet curling chaotically in every direction, the name “Ara” printed across the chest of his sleeveless tank. “I’m so blessed and humbled to know that my teammates think of me that way, and to be able to represent Notre Dame on the highest stage is a dream come true.”

That’s right. You heard him. On Sept. 1, before the Irish host Michigan, a punter will be representing Notre Dame at midfield.

Apologies, not just a punter.

A football player. A teammate.

“You’ve got to understand, he had over 51 percent of the vote,” head coach Brian Kelly said. “Where Sam and Drue benefit from a unit that they’re with, he’s got four guys that he’s with on a day-to-day basis, on another field. To get that kind of vote as a punter sends a strong message about how he’s looked at by his peers.”

Added Newsome: “I came in with the mindset that I’m one of the guys, even though my position is a specialty position. But it is nice to know that my teammates also respect me in that same way.”

They can’t help but respect him. Have you seen how this guy works?

“Newsome … he’s Newsome,” Mustipher said with a knowing grin. “He’s attacking every single day. And he was one of my personal votes for captain, because I’d see the way the guy works every day. He’s insane about his work ethic, and he truly wants to lead this team. He wants this team to be successful and he would do anything for us.”

He does anything and everything — and on Saturdays, he punts. In 2017, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior averaged 43.6 yards per punt, with 19 punts inside the 20-yard-line and 17 punts of at least 50 yards. On Tuesday, he was outside, in the snow, working with the other Irish specialists.

Attacking, per usual.

“I knew that coming into Notre Dame I was going to have a very limited time here,” Newsome said. “So for me, I know that each morning I wake up there are millions of people that would love to be in my shoes. So I’d be a fool to let one morning go by and pass it up. I try to be a very consistent guy and bring the same amount of energy every day to everything, because tomorrow’s not guaranteed.”

Speaking of being in Newsome’s shoes …

Once he graduates with a marketing degree and a sustainability minor this spring, Newsome plans to plant a tattoo of a leprechaun squarely on his punting foot. Wherever that foot leads him, the leprechaun will come along.

It’ll also have plenty of company. On his left arm, Newsome touts a tattoo that reads, “Family: we may not have it all together, but together we have it all.” Over his heart, there’s a bible verse, Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” On his side, over his since-healed ribs, there’s a map of his hometown and the state of Georgia.

Newsome has his life on his body and a “C” on his chest.

And hey, that sure beats scars.

“I’m pretty excited about the fifth year, too,” added Newsome, even after the questions ended. “I’m pretty excited that Notre Dame took me back. One more round. You can’t get rid of me yet. See you guys.”

Then he got the eff out of the room.


Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame’s Austin Webster (26) hugs Tyler Newsome (85) following Notre Dame's 21-17 win over LSU in the Citrus Bowl on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN