SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Tyler Newsome is not the only player on the Notre Dame roster from Georgia, but he’s the only one playing a prominent role on his team at the moment. And as you might expect, he is pretty jacked about the Bulldogs coming to town next fall.
So are his family and friends back in Carrollton, a few of whom have come to view him as Ticket Master.
“There have been a few people I haven’t talked to in a couple of years that I heard from,” Newsome cracked Tuesday. “But you only get four tickets and I’m trying to take care of the family and make sure they can come up.”
Oh, they’ll be there. Both Newsome’s parents and his step-parents – the Newsomes and the Tuckers — grew up as Georgia fans. So did Tyler, for that matter. But they’re all Irish through and through now. So there will be no divided loyalties when the Bulldogs descend on Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 9.
If not for some fateful circumstances, Newsome himself might be wearing the red and black of Georgia for that game. Former coach Mark Richt gave him an opportunity to come to UGA and play for the Bulldogs. But Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly gave him a better one.
Richt offered Newsome the opportunity to come to Georgia as a preferred walkon after he won the punting competition at the Bulldogs’ camp the summer of 2013. But two weeks later, Kelly offered Newsome a full ride, and he hasn’t looked back since.
“Coach Richt was one of my favorite coaches as a recruiter,” Newsome said. “He was very open and honest with me at the time. He didn’t play any games with me or anything like that. … He told me, ‘Tyler, I’m very realistic with my punters. You have to earn it before I give it to you.’ He said, ‘if someone else offers you, you need to take it because paying for school is so important. If not, we’d love to have you.’
“I know he’s no longer there but that pure honesty out of that was very respectable, especially coming from a head coach. He shot me straight.”
Newsome had never punted in high school
The crazy thing about it, Newsome accepted the offer from Notre Dame without having ever punted in a high school game. The offer came before his senior season, and he hadn’t been the punter before that. He was a place-kicker first and foremost.
“I kind of picked up at the end of my junior season,” he said. “I just kind of picked it up and it was one of those things that it just kind of came along and I progressed and I just kept going. I punted my senior year and my first snap was two months after I committed to Notre Dame.”
That’s also when he found out that Georgia would be coming to Notre Dame in 2017. Newsome signed with the Irish in February of 2014, and the announcement that the teams would be playing this year came two months later.
“Notre Dame does play a lot of marquee opponents and you realize that as a recruit,” Newsome said. “Notre Dame plays the best teams in the country. You play in California one weekend and down in Florida the next and you’re in New York. You literally hit all the spots in the country. As a recruit, you get taken aback by all that. But I never actually thought, ‘I’m going to get to play a team from my home state.’”
Newsome actually got to play Georgia Tech and his former Carrollton teammate Broderick Snoddy in 2015. But he’ll miss Notre Dame’s return trip to Athens in 2019. He will be graduated by then.
In the meantime Newsome has thrived under the Golden Dome, not just as a player but as a student in the school’s prestigious college of business and off the field with regard to community service. At the moment his head is shaven almost clean. That’s because he donated the flowing blond locks he had become known for to St. Baldrick’s for children with cancer.
In a nutshell, Newsome loves it here. Well, with the notable exception of those snowy walks to the Guglielmino Athletic Center for 5:15 a.m. workouts in the offseason. But none of it has been easy, especially the academic end of the equation.
“I had always heard what a prestigious academic institution Notre Dame always was, so I knew I was coming into a challenge,” Newsome said. “I feel as though Carrollton did prepare me for what was going to come, but any high school can only prepare you so much. There’s always going to be some realization where you tell yourself, ‘wow, I’m really going to have to buckle down if I truly want to compete on the field and in the classroom.’ That’s what Notre Dame is. You earn what you get here, whether it’s on the football field or in the classroom.”
Newsome knows many UGA players
Newsome knows several of Georgia’s players. He’s especially close with walk-on place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship and was good friends with former kicker William Ham as well. That’s because all of them competed in the various kicking camps around the state in high school.
“I know Rodrigo pretty well,” he said. “I know them from camps and being recruited at the same time. Those guys are really great dudes, guys I value competing with at that age. Now at this level it’s really nice to see them succeed, it makes me really happy.”
Newsome has followed the Bulldogs’ kicking and punting developments closely and wanted to know if “the transfer guys” – Cameron Nizialek and William Marvin — were going to end up playing this fall. He was told that’s undecided at the moment.
Either way, he’s excited about seeing the Bulldogs in South Bend in September. He’s one of a few Irish from the Peach State, including backup quarterback and holder Montgomery VanGorder of Buford and receiver Mick Assaf of Atlanta’s Pace Academy.
“It’s fun talking about playing a team from back home,” Newsome said. “Georgia is the team that generally everybody talks about in my area. It’s either Georgia or Auburn where I’m from.”
It’s all Irish for the Newsomes now.