Ansonia's Newsome shining at UConn
Nothing stood in the way between Arkeel Newsome and history on the football field at Ansonia High School.
En route to three straight state championships in his final three years, Newsome obliterated the Connecticut record book, rushing for 10,672 yards and 187 touchdowns, and was only the ninth player in the history of the United States to reach 10,000 yards in high school. In his final hurrah, he gained 3,867 yards on the ground and reached the end zone an absurd 68 times. His Chargers also won the final 43 games of his career.
It was then off to bigger things at UConn. Quickly, though, Newsome learned Division I football is not the same as the Naugatuck Valley League.
As a freshman, he combined for 354 yards rushing and receiving and scored only four touchdowns. The 5-foot-7, 182-pound Newsome also had issues holding onto to the football, a plague which got him pulled in multiple games.
And, of course, as a team, the Huskies had a rocky season, finishing 2-10 – more losses than Newsome suffered in his entire high school career.
His college career could’ve gone in any direction at that point. Instead of sulking and wondering ‘Why me?’, Newsome went back to the drawing board. And the progress he’s made is easy to see.
“The amount of focus (has been the difference), just putting a little more work in,” said the soft-spoken Newsome, who has 671 combined yards rushing and receiving in seven games this season.
“He has cleared the extra curriculum slate. He’s resting better, he’s eating better, he’s studying better,” noted UConn coach Bob Diaco. “He’s training better with the sports performance team. All these things have created an opportunity for him not be distracted and focus on football.”
The last two games have been his best yet.
In a 27-point victory at Central Florida, Newsome amassed 257 all-purpose yards with two touchdowns, earning himself the American Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Week. He also gained over 200 yards total this past Saturday, finishing with 221 in a loss at home to South Florida.
It hasn’t always been a smooth ride this season. In the third game of the year, Newsome had only three touches in a 9-6 loss at Missouri. Since then, he has been a mainstay in the backfield, getting the ball at least 15 times in the four games since.
“(The coaches) go off on how well we practice,” Newsome, a sophomore, said. “I’ve been practicing well and a lot better.”
Diaco can see.
“We’re allowing his light to shine,” Diaco said. “He’s always been very talented and he loves playing football. He’s got good or very good football intelligence. Moxy, guts and he’s a highly competitive person. You just see his maturity there, that he’s living the right way. It’s allowing him to play fast and play hard and be healthy and produce.”
The Huskies, at 3-4, need three more wins to become bowl eligible, and if they are to reach that goal, Newsome will be a big reason why.
He, however, is just focused on the smaller picture.
“I’m just trying to make the most of every play I get, always keep my feet moving, and staying focused on my assignments,” Newsome said.
That focus has helped Newsome become an all-around force for the Huskies. We’ve seen that before.