A Line Worth Its Weight

January 28, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- Nate Newton used to be known as the kitchen. Now he's just a breakfast nook.

When Newton joined the Dallas Cowboys in 1986, he was noted mostly for losing the battle of the bulge. He had to prove he could play even though the scale always hit the wrong side of 300 pounds when he stepped on it.

Now Newton is an average-sized guy in the Cowboys' offensive line, though he weighs about 330 pounds.

He lines up next to tackle Mark Tuinei, who describes himself as "one of the light ones" at 305 pounds.

On the other side, guard Kevin Gogan is listed at 328 pounds, and tackle Erik Williams at 324.

Center John Gesek, filling in for injured Mark Stepnoski, is a trim 285.

If you're keeping score at home, the starting line that will face the Buffalo Bills in Sunday's Super Bowl adds up to more than 1,500 pounds. It's a big reason why the Dallas offense tends to wear down defenses in the fourth quarter.

Though Newton is no longer the only wide body on the line, he's stillthe one who gets the most grief about his weight. Maybe it's because he's so quotable.

L Newton said he only eats one meal a day, but "It's a feast."

"Why does anybody care about me being a fat football player?" he said. "Now I've got to be a role model for all the fat people out there trying to get skinny. Let me eat. Anybody got a danish?"

At 6 feet 3, Newton is four inches shorter than Gogan and three inches shorter than Williams, so he's the widest body out there. He also draws attention because he regularly gets fined for not weighing in at 320 or under.

"I'm fined $25 a pound for every pound I'm over the limit," Newton said. "I don't know where the money goes, but we had a heck of a Christmas party last year."

Coach Jimmy Johnson said: "Before we came here, Nate was an up-and-down player. The dominant theme was his weight, almost to the point of being badgered about it. I think that took away from his confidence."

The Cowboys don't go much for finesse. They just try to blow their opponents off the line and create those seams for Emmitt Smith.

"We're not a big pulling team," Gogan said. "We don't try to fool anybody. We come at you. We wear people out."

Gogan is quick to admit that Smith makes blocking easy.

"He makes us all look good," he said. "We don't take much credit for Emmitt," he said.

The linemen also insist they're just big people and didn't do anything special to put on the pounds.

"I'm not a steroid type guy," said Gogan, who weighed 275 pounds at the University of Washington.

Newton still hears a lot about his weight, mostly from the media. It didn't help that a study was released yesterday showing that offensive and defensive linemen die at a a younger age of heart disease than the average person, apparently because of their size.

Newton said his size doesn't come from eating. He said it's genetic.

"Look, my mother is big and my father is big," he said. "So if you put two fat cows together, what do you think you're going to get, a giraffe? . . . I mean, my grandmother is 5 feet 3 and she looks

like Earl Campbell. So what I am supposed to look like?"

L He also said he's not concerned about his cholesterol count.

"I know people who weigh 110 pounds who have cholesterol problems," he said. "Everything you can tell me about being fat, I can tell you about a skinny person."

"The fact is, look into my family history. All of them lived over 60 or 70 years old. You're telling me all of sudden I'm going to die because I'm a new generation or something."

He wasn't concerned about the study saying linemen are at a risk for heart disease.

"All of a sudden some doctor made a million dollars by telling you if you're fat, you're going to die early. That's a lie," he said.

Newton, though, conceded size can be an advantage on the field for the Cowboys against the lighter, quicker Bills.

"If you got pit bulls, a good little dog and you've got a good big dog, which one do you think is going to win?" he said.

The Cowboys find out Sunday.

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