Ute football: Stabbing gave Ute a new perspective
Lying in a hospital bed in January, Utah senior Greg Newman realized how close his football career might have come to ending. He, along with teammates Paul Kruger and Kruger's younger brother, Dave, were jumped by a group of guys outside of a party.
Newman was stabbed in his side twice with a screwdriver that missed his kidney by centimeters.
The police never found the culprits, but Newman found something: a higher drive to succeed.
"That stabbing opened my eyes to a lot of things," he said. "I wanted to focus on what I can get out of this year. So far, it's working out really good."
"Really good" underestimates his impact. The former walk-on backup has not only developed into a full-time starter at tackle, but has also become the iron horse for the defensive line.
When injuries took out defensive linemen Kenape Eliapo (foot) and Lei Talamaivao (fibula), Newman stepped up and played and played. Often he is only out of the lineup for a play or two. Most of the time the 6-foot-2, 260-pound lineman is wearing down offensive linemen who are bigger than he is.
"You have to put a rope around his neck and drag him out because otherwise he isn't coming out of there," defensive coordinator Gary Andersen said. "He's a tireless worker."
Newman is also one of the best for the Utes. He is fifth on the team with 28 tackles, leads the team with two fumble recoveries and has two pass breakups. Altogether he has been one of the most improved players from 2007 for the defense.
"Before he was just trying to get his spot, playing here and there," Andersen said. "Now he sees himself as one of the core leaders for our defense and for the younger guys."
Newman said he changed his way of thinking after the stabbing incident. He has had broken fingers and other small injuries, but nothing that has come close to threatening his career like the stabbing did. If the stabbing had injured his kidney beyond repair, he may have decided to play with one kidney like teammate Kruger does, or not.
"It put things in perspective," he said. "You don't get to play this game your whole life and I made a decision to buckle down, and it's paying off. I appreciate everything now."
His improved play and work ethic have earned him the respect of his teammates.
"He has the fire and goes in every play like it's a fight," Kruger said. "He puts a lot of effort into every play. The coaches call him a technician because he is so good with his technique and he is just a smart player."
With Newman and defensive ends Kruger and Koa Misi playing so well, the rest of Utah's defenders can play a little loose, knowing those guys are taking care of their assignments, linebacker Mike Wright said.
"With Greg and the other guys, they get to the quarterback so fast it makes it hard for them to do regular drop back passes," Wright said.
The success he and the Utes have had is just what he had hoped for, Newman said.
"I've really been blessed," Newman said. "It's awesome. I'm having so much fun, the time of my life."