It’s been almost six years now.
Six years since Oct. 1, 2016: The last day Grant Newsome ran down the tunnel, pads on, slapping the banner to a chorus of over 100,000 fans.
Like any other fall Saturday, Newsome put on his winged helmet, ready for a battle in the trenches at his spot on the offensive line. At left tackle, Newsome had two primary duties: protect the quarterback’s blind side and create holes for the running back. On the fateful play, Newsome was fulfilling the latter.
“99 Truck” — that’s what the play was called. It’s a pitch play to the running back with the left tackle as the primary blocker, creating space by diving at the defenders legs, also known as a cut. But as the play developed, Newsome realized something — there wasn’t enough room to cut. He was going to clog the hole, neutralizing the whole play.
So he stayed up.
The defender made the cut instead, going head first into Newsome’s right knee. Next thing he knew, he was on the ground with trainers, doctors and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh surrounding him.
It was a battle just to get upright. But with heavy assistance — and a whole lot of adrenaline — Newsome waved off the cart and walked right back up the tunnel himself.
“I think I’ve watched it one time,” Newsome said back in March. “I watched on the ambulance up to the hospital; I didn’t really know what was going on. And I watched it one additional time — I forget when. But no, it’s not something I circle back to for motivation or anything like that. I try to stay away from it. It’s something that happened and something that changed my life, but I’d like to believe it’s changed it for the better.”
But that was six years ago.
Now, Newsome is the Wolverines’ tight ends coach, a husband and the owner of two degrees from the University of Michigan. A lot’s changed. Perhaps the greatest change was to Newsome’s own mindset.
“When I got here, I swore I would never coach,” Newsome said in March.
“But I kind of got the bug and was like ‘Alright, I can do it for now. I’ll do it for another year while I finish up (school),’ ” Newsome told The Daily. “And then it was ‘Hey, I really like this, I should do it for another year.’ And then before I knew it, I was hooked, and then obviously spent ‘18 and ‘19 as a student assistant, technically, and then 2021 as a grad assistant and then got promoted in January, February or whatever it was to be the tight ends coach.”
But while it may have snuck up on Newsome, to those close to him, the signs were always there.
“I think I could tell that he still had that itch in him to do something with football,” Grant’s wife, Coco Newsome, told The Daily. “… I think that there was still some unfinished business for him in the football world. And I could tell that just based on the way he would talk about it, and the way that he would continue to talk about it.”
Football is hard to quit, Grant will say that himself. The game has a gravitational pull that many can’t escape. And as much as Grant’s educational pursuit of public policy interested him, it was never going to be enough to woo him away from the gridiron.
But it wasn’t always simple. Before Grant could find his love for coaching, he had to learn to let go of his dream of playing.
“It was tough,” Grant said. “I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days where I was upset or angry or bitter, but that’s part of it. I think every person processes that differently and I’m extremely, extremely blessed, extremely lucky that I had an amazing support system, not just here with Coach Harbaugh on down, but my family, my wife I mentioned, my parents, my brothers, our extended family who were there for me in those tough times.”
It was like a “team,” as Coco put it, that rallied around Grant in the early stages. Coco and both of Grant’s parents played a game of tag, rotating out so there was always someone by his side over the course of many nights in the hospital. His teammates, coaches and family helped him make the transition as smooth as possible.
No matter how much they smoothed out the journey, the road would never be without its bumps. At the time of the injury, Grant was already seeing his name around NFL draft buzz over a year out from eligibility. He was a talented tackle with a bright future. Grant had also showed out in high school, setting high expectations and making those Sunday afternoon dreams seem less imaginary, more an inevitability. For someone like that, all of it being taken away in a moment completely upends their world, shrouding the path forward in darkness.
For Grant, though, it’s always been about perspective.
“It just kind of just became like, ‘Alright, this is the reality,’ ” Grant said. “I can sit around and complain and be upset about it and say, ‘This wasn’t fair,’ but the reality is I am where I am. So now I gotta try to make the most of it.”
But just a change of perspective wasn’t enough, nor was a simple fondness for coaching. Grant needed to be hooked.
“2019, we were at Illinois and Luke Schoonmaker caught his first career touchdown on that kind of play action, zone read, RPO, whatever you guys want to call it,” Grant said. “And just seeing the joy in his face, and he came off the sideline and I think I just smacked the crap out of his chest; and I think that was the one that really kind of clicked.
“… Truthfully, I’m not sure that at the moment I really knew that that was when it clicked for me. It was kind of looking back, looking at my journey into the profession and kind of some reflection.”
That was it, though. That moment, and many others like it, made him fall in love with coaching — with the mentorship of it. He wasn’t the one out there making plays, but his guys were, and that’s what mattered.
“I don’t know if it was one conscious decision,” Grant said. “… (But) seeing the guys here and see them have success and it just kind of made me realize that ‘No, this is something that I wasn’t ready to leave and I don’t want to leave’ and that this is what I feel like I’m supposed to be doing, and I feel like if I could even have a small impact on the guys that it was something that I wanted to do with my life.”
But Grant didn’t just want to coach — he wanted to coach for Michigan.
He’s been in the program since 2015, and was recruited years before that. It’s a place he’s grown to love more each day. It’s where he’s surrounded by his mentors — from Harbaugh to now-co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Sherrone Moore — where he went to school with Coco and where he found his passion for coaching. Grant has been a Wolverine for over a quarter of his life. It’s home.
And it’s where he’s made his mark.
“Checked every box from the moment he stepped on campus,” Harbaugh said Sept. 12. “In every way as a player, as a worker, respected by all his teammates and respected by all his coaches — he respects everybody on campus and within the team. … Anybody whom he comes in contact with he has a positive effect on — literally everybody.”
Moore added his own thoughts just two days later:
“He coaches the guys really hard,” Moore said. “And you know, he does a lot of things that I do, just because he worked with me so long, but he’s taken his own way of doing things which is really good. And that’s what you have to do if you want to be a really good coach, and the sky’s the limit for Grant and his coaching career.”
If you asked Grant six years ago what he wanted to do with his life, he’d share aspirations of an NFL career and snap after snap of blocking. If you asked him what he wanted to do just four years ago, he’d tell you something about graduating and going into public policy. If you asked tight ends coach Grant Newsome that same question today, he has just one answer:
“This is my calling. I truly believe that this is what I’ve been put on this earth to do.”