KINGSPORT — Emory & Henry athletic director Myra Sims admitted that when she first met new Wasps head football coach Curt Newsome in person, she was a little surprised.
"I'd heard that he played on the defensive line, so I thought he would be a lot bigger than he is," said Sims, who wrangled a roomful of head coaches and alumni during Wednesday night's E&H Coaches Caravan at the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce.
You'd think an animal fierce enough to scare off a grizzly bear would be larger than a wolverine. That's basically how it worked with Newsome the football player.
Newsome the football coach? Evidently still fearless, after all these years.
"We've got some issues," said Newsome, who ran the squad through no-pads practice sessions this past spring.
"We're a team that lost our last five games. We lost 25 seniors. We lost a three-year starter at quarterback. But that's not what we're talking to them about," said the program's 20th head football coach since 1893.
"I feel like there is a great energy now. I think it was there in the spring. I know enough about this game that if they believe in themselves, they always have a shot," he said.
The new head coach is a 1982 E&H graduate who played for the Wasps under head coaches Jerry Kirk and Larry Bales. Belying the lean winning percentages of that period are the ambitious football coaches who emerged from it.
Newsome, who spent the past 15 years coaching in the Division I ranks, is one of that generation's star pupils. His college resume includes helping to lead James Madison to an FCS national championship. He served on a Virginia Tech staff that won three Atlantic Coast Conference titles and made seven bowl appearances, including an Orange Bowl victory in 2009.
Many great things have small beginnings. The Newport News native's very first accolade as a football coach is one that still carries a lot of weight in this part of the world. In 1984, he was named Lonesome Pine District Coach of the Year while coaching at now-defunct Ervinton.
He went on to coach in the Virginia high school ranks for 16 years, including assignments at Kecoughtan in Hampton and Heritage in Newport News. He was a three-time Eastern Region Coach of the Year. In 1998, he was named state coach of the year by both the VHSL and the Associated Press. His leap to the college ranks soon followed.
Newsome looks forward to immersing himself in the weekly work rhythm of the impending football season. Even so, he's not a coach who dreads meet-and-greet events like Wednesday's Coaches Caravan.
His natural off-the-field affability is as legendary as his competitive intensity. When he is among his fellow alumni, he is among friends.
"I couldn't be happier. It's where I want to be. The alumni have been great and we're having a good time with it. And we haven't lost a game yet," he quipped.
"To get a chance to be here, at this stage of my life in coaching , I don't care where I might've been in the country. I would have come back to Emory. It's where I eventually wanted to be.
"I've gotten to see old friends that I haven't seen in years and it's just so great to see everybody. That's the beauty of this job. We're not in the middle of everything just yet, so I can enjoy this."comments powered by Disqus