With lean and hungry look, Cowboys' Newton carves out a mouthful

January 28, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- When the Dallas Cowboys arrived in town Sunday, Nate Newton had one question for the team's public relations director after he got off the plane:

"Am I going to get a podium or what?" Newton said.

It's no distraction for the colorful Cowboys guard to talk to the members of the media. He's enjoying his first Super Bowl.

"I'm loving every minute of it," he said. "I love the media. Even when they were making jokes about me, I knew that one day I'd turn it around and use them for my benefit."

His career started as a free agent out of Florida A & M when the Washington Redskins signed him in 1983. It wasn't a good year for a young lineman to try to make the team. The original Hogs -- including four youngsters, Joe Jacoby, Russ Grimm, Mark May and Jeff Bostic -- had helped the team win the Super Bowl the previous year.

Newton made it to the last cut before being waived, survived a serious auto accident, revived his career in the USFL, returned to the NFL with the Cowboys and overcame a weight problem to make the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl this year.

"Hey, man, I cut myself with the Redskins. I was immature. My mindwasn't right. Coach [Joe] Gibbs actually called me in to his office my second week and told me I had a great opportunity. I wasn't real focused. I was a little wild. I didn't have my mind right," he said.

Gibbs, though, now wishes he had kept Newton. "I'd say we made a mistake on that one. He's a big strong guy who can move," he said.

When the final cuts were announced, Newton was visiting a relative in Pittsburgh and was involved in an accident on his return to Washington.

"I fell asleep at the wheel. I bought a few beers and I pulled over and went to sleep and woke up and continued on. I guess I was a little more tired than I thought. I was speeding and I remember I woke up and there was water on the right [at a hotel near Dulles Airport] and a little hill on the left.

"I knew I wasn't going into that water and turned the car real quick toward the hill and the next thing I knew, I woke up and the police said, 'Stay still, you should be dead.' Then I woke up again and I was in the hospital," he said. His suffered a bruised kidney, but escaped serious injury.

That escapade caught the eye of John Riggins, the Redskins' Hall of Fame running back.

"He invited me to a party and he said, 'I love a guy like you; you getcut from the Redskins and you try to commit suicide,' " he said.

Newton thought his career was over.

"I was just chilling out and I was going to try to get back into school, but I didn't have any money. My agent called and said, 'Hey, what type of shape are you in?' " he said.

"I looked at myself and said, 'Well, I'm not in too good a shape,' " Newton said.

The USFL Tampa Bay Bandits signed him, and he was in the leaguetwo years before it folded.

"My agent called me again [after it folded] and I wasn't in too good a shape," he said.

Several NFL teams were interested in him even though he was tipping the scales at 350 pounds.

When he arrived at the Cowboys' camp, he heard one of the coaches bet he couldn't do five chin-ups.

"So I started the chin-ups like I was struggling and I went, 'o-n-e, t-w-o' and he was smiling and I did three, four and five and I looked athim and I said, 'I can do five, if you'd said 10, I would have been in trouble,' " he said.

The Cowboys signed him in 1986.

Once he got his weight down to the 335-pound range, they realized he could play. However, he still was known more for his weight problem than his playing ability.

"The only time it really bothers me is when you come to me and say, 'I want to do a story on Nate the player' and all of a sudden, it's nothing but fat this and fat that. They just give you a whole lot of my fatness and after a whole page of fat, they give me one lean paragraph about now he can play ball. End of story. That's a killer," he said.

He said when he met his wife, Dorothy, a few years ago, she started saving those stories in a scrapbook and he uses them for motivation.

"The fat man who started off as a novelty is now a ballplayer," he said.

Last off-season, Newton decided to go on a major weight reduction campaign and got himself down to 292. But it turned out he lost strength as well as fat.

"I was about two plays away from getting cut. I had to gain weight in a hurry," he said.

He now says he's about 325, give or take a few pounds.

But he's an effective blocker at left guard for the line that opens the holes for Emmitt Smith, and he made the Pro Bowl even though he'll need knee surgery after the season.

"My ultimate goals have been the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl. When I got the Pro Bowl, I was, 'Whoa, man, that's one.' When we beat San Francisco [in the NFC title game], that's two. The third one is to win the Super Bowl."

It's been a long time coming, but Newton is savoring it.

"I'm on top of the world," he said.

Remembering that first training camp with the Redskins, he said, "I was never officially cut [informed in person because he was in the car accident] by the Redskins. They owe me two Super Bowl rings."

Newton now hopes to get his own Sunday.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.