Usually eloquent and poised, Tre’ Newton fidgeted and stammered when confronting what he called the toughest decision of his life.
A series of head injuries has forced the sophomore running back to give up playing football.
“As much as I love this game,” Newton said, pausing to clear his throat. “I have to think about my life after football.”
After suffering a concussion on Nov. 6 at Kansas State, Newton was advised by team doctors to quit playing football if he wanted to avoid any long-term damage. He met with his parents, doctors and coaches before Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State to help grasp the situation.
“It’s what I’ve been doing as long as I can remember,” said Newton, who turned 21 last month. “When you’re out there playing, getting hurt never even crosses your mind — you think you’re invincible.”
Coaches sympathized with Newton and praised him for the commitment he has always shown to football.
“Any time you invest so much of your life into something and then have to walk away from it, it’s hard,” said offensive coordinator Greg Davis.
Head coach Mack Brown, who dealt with a similar situation in his playing career when doctors told him he had to quit, tried to describe the helpless feeling.
“You feel like you just lost a huge part of yourself,” Brown said. “For Tre’ to be told that he can never play again, it’s devastating for him.”
Like Newton said, he was born into football. His father, Nate, was an offensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys from 1986 to 1998. As a child, Tre’ spent countless hours in the Cowboys locker room and later chose to be more like Emmitt Smith than his father. Growing up, he turned to God to endure the hardships of his parents’ divorce and his father’s multiple arrests.
As a teenager, with his father in federal prison for 32 months, he maintained his commitment to faith and football. Through the adversity, Newton dominated at Southlake Carroll, rushing for 4,728 yards and 49 touchdowns on 610 carries, leading his team to three state championships. He always wanted to be a Longhorn, and when Texas offered the scholarship, he quickly committed.
After a promising redshirt freshman season when he led the team with 552 rushing yards in 2009, Newton rushed for 229 yards and three touchdowns on 64 carries in eight games this season.
“He sure earned his scholarship here,” Brown said. “He’s a great young man.”
Newton’s teammates were forced to find out about the decision at Monday’s news conference, and their gut reactions to the situation were mostly of shock and disappointment.
“He’s the true definition of a teammate,” receiver James Kirkendoll said. “To lose somebody like that is tough, especially for him because we all knew how badly he wanted this.”
From here, Newton plans to continue working for the team until he graduates next December with a degree in corporate communication. He has graduate school aspirations, but until then, he plans to serve as a mentor to young running backs and a tutor in the academic learning center.
“It’s going to be tough, but I need to be able to help my team in any way I can,” Newton said. “Getting them water, whatever I have to do.”
He has always been known for his maturity, but the resignation in Newton’s answers is a testament to his faith. Search his name on YouTube to find the glory and happiness his ability brought people. Watch him in the 2006 state championship when he broke 10 tackles for a 73-yard touchdown run. Or check out last September’s touchdown against Texas Tech when the crowd at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium erupted into pandemonium, much like fans have done all his life.
For the thousands of buckled chin straps, the hundreds of broken tackles and the dozens of nights he spent dreaming about the NFL, Newton will never play football again.
“I’m extremely passionate about this game,” he said. “I’m not thrilled or completely at rest with it, but prayer will help me through this difficult decision.”