Kenneth Newsome, a starting senior linebacker for Howard University, expects to give his teammates a little speech before tomorrow night's football game against Towson State at Minnegan Stadium.
"Some of the guys have done it before when we've had games in their hometowns, asking us not to lose, because they'd lose the bragging rights among their friends," said Newsome, a 1987 graduate of City College, during a recent telephone conversation. "Now I guess it's my turn, so I'll probably say something before the game."
That speech is likely to take on a more personal meaning for Newsome after Monday night's shooting death of his close friend, Frank White Jr.
"It was a shock," Newsome said yesterday. "I grew up with him; he was a good football player at Overlea, and I wanted him to come to Howard. I plan on dedicating the rest of the season to his memory. Saturday [tomorrow] night definitely will be meaningful for me."
Newsome, 6 feet 2 and 235 pounds, will be playing at Towson State for the first time, although he played in town last year when Howard defeated Morgan State, 31-0, in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game.
"I love to come home and play," he said, "because the people in the neighborhood get a chance to see me. That makes it more exciting, builds extra enthusiasm. Again, this one will be special."
Newsome hasn't always had that extra enthusiasm for his college football career.
"I had played offensive guard and linebacker in high school [he was an honorable mention All-Metro linebacker as a senior] and was recruited as a linebacker," he said. "However, after two weeks my first season I was moved to offensive guard. I started at 235 pounds, and in two months was up to 265. As a sophomore, I was up to 270. I felt uncomfortable with that extra weight, but I still had good movement."
This was during the coaching tenure of Willie Jeffries, but when he departed for South Carolina State and Steve Wilson moved in, Newsome took advantage of the coaching change.
"That spring, I told the coach I wanted to play linebacker, and he said it was OK since he didn't know what I could do," he said. "I must have impressed him, because I came out of that camp as a starting linebacker."
Along the way, he went on a weight-loss program and was monitored closely while dropping 45 pounds in less than three months.
During the Bison's 8-3 season last year, a year when it had the best total defense and scoring defense in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I-AA, Newsome was the leader with 101 tackles. It earned him honorable mention All-Conference and led to his being a preseason All-Conference selection for this season.
"My tackles are down from last year -- the main thing I work on is technique -- but I feel I'm contributing in other ways," Newsome, a team captain, said. "I work at boosting our confidence and teaching the young players on our defense.
"Personally, I'd like to get 100 tackles again, but right now it is more important that we keep our team's national defensive ranking," he said.
A 17-tackle effort against North Carolina A&T last week lifted him back into the team lead with 54.