When sophomore left tackle Grant Newsome was 10 years old, he wasn’t allowed to play Pee Wee football. He was too big.
His other option was to play with 15-year-olds, and his dad wasn’t about to let that happen. So Newsome’s football career officially started his freshman year of high school, when he was finally allowed to play with his classmates. After all of that waiting, he was awarded the unglamorous position as backup left tackle on the junior varsity team. At the time, he thought he would stick with baseball, another sport he excelled at and played year-round.
Soon after, however, he realized his full football potential when he received an offer from Rutgers during his sophomore year. Until then, he hadn’t spoken with a single college coach. He started taking the sport more seriously after getting the offer.
Now, at 6-foot-7 and 318 pounds, it appears he made the right choice.
In Saturday’s 63-3 win over Hawaii, Newsome started after a steady competition at left tackle throughout fall camp. According to offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, Ben Bredeson has been pressuring Newsome at the position ever since the true freshman stepped onto campus.
Newsome was the presumed starter going into the 2016 season because of the in-game experiences he gained as a freshman, including starting at Minnesota on Oct. 31. He played in five games last year, but still considers himself a raw player.
Newsome knew that he would have to battle for the spot this season.
“I didn’t really look at it that it was my job to lose, but I think, obviously, playing first string, I had some experience, but because I played as a freshman last year, I knew that Coach Drevno and Coach Harbaugh were going to roll the balls out and see who the best was,” Newsome said. “I didn’t have the attitude that I had the spot locked down, and I was really just excited to come out and compete for the opportunity and I think that I definitely got pushed and that I’ll continue to be pushed.”
Though Newsome played at left tackle, Bredeson did get to see the field while sharing left guard duties with senior Patrick Kugler as senior Ben Braden sat out due to injury. Though Braden should be returning for Saturday’s game against Central Florida, Harbaugh said Monday that Bredeson showed “very good signs for a future at left guard,” while also stating that Newsome “continues to be one of our top linemen.”
“I thought it was definitely a good start,” Newsome said of Saturday’s game. “Obviously there’s a lot left to improve. I think I’ll see that when I go over the film with coach Drevno. Definitely a lot of areas to improve on, but it was good to get out there and get our first start under my belt.”
After experiencing game action last season, it would be easy to approach this season with a more relaxed attitude. As a sophomore, he’s in a unique position. He’s a young player, but still experienced enough to draw on situations in which he has started.
Newsome thinks that’s the way it should be, and if the coaching staff wants to give playing time to freshmen, so be it.
“For me, it was really helpful last year to get some experience in the game,” Newsome said. “It’s great to play for a coach who you know if you’re the best at your position, you’re going to play. I think that’s how it should be. It should be a meritocracy.”
With the pressure Newsome has received from Bredeson, it’s safe to say that he knows his job is never safe. Newsome had to climb his way up from the backup on junior varsity in high school, and after playing as the sixth man on the offensive line last season, he’s no stranger to competition.
“(Bredeson) really pushed me throughout camp and he’s still going to push me, and I think it’s great for me because I can go out and practice every day and know that I have to earn a starting spot,” Newsome said. “It forces me to get better.”