For more on college football, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at Tom101010.
MUNCIE – When you speak with Brandon Newman, you discover that he is adamant about a lot of things. Politics are not in his future because the Ball State nose guard doesn't have a clue how to waffle on a subject.
If you want to know how he feels about something, simply ask.
And when it comes to his football career bringing the former prep All-American to Muncie, he'll tell you three things:
1. He is thrilled and appreciative to be with the Cardinals.
2. He can't wait to play in his first game against Eastern Michigan (he's literally counting the days).
3. And most importantly, don't judge him on the first four years of his athletic career at Notre Dame.
“I didn't go to Notre Dame and forget how to play football,” Newman said. “I went to Notre Dame and got better and better and better.”
Newman spent the past four years in South Bend battling one frustration after another. But all of that is in the past. He is spending his fifth and final season of eligibility at Ball State, and so far, he's loved every minute of it.
“Choosing a school and where you are going to spend your last chance at football,” Newman said. “Obviously is going to come with a certain sense of severity. I'm glad that this has happened the way that it did.”
The time Newman spent at Notre Dame proved bittersweet. His love of the university and former teammates is readily apparent, yet his four years of football for the Fighting Irish, in which he saw action in just two games, left a lot for him – and Irish fans – to be desired. Yet, despite the obstacles, he bleeds blue and gold and always will after graduating with a degree in communications in May.
“The reason for (my love of Notre Dame) is the people,” Newman said. “People can talk about the tradition and the history… but what makes that monogram so special and those colors so special are all of the people.”
Newman said his career – or lack thereof – was due to conditioning (freshman season), problems mastering new techniques (sophomore season), injury (junior season) and, well, he's not sure about the final season in which he played for his third defensive line coach in four seasons (Ball State's Chad Wilt will be his fourth in five years).
“I have been capable of playing for years,” Newman said. “You could ask any of the (Notre Dame offensive linemen). It got to the point that when I talked with the coaches, they'd honestly come up with excuses.”
Newman admits that he is a “gamer,” more so than a practice player. However, the 6-foot, 303-pounder still believes he can “get into the backfield and wreak havoc.”
“There is a difference between playing in the game and playing in practice,” Newman said. “One of my biggest problems is that I am a gamer. As well as I do in practice, a game is where I can turn it up to the umpteenth degree.”
Newman saw the writing on the wall during the 2011 season and realized that the Fighting Irish coaches weren't going to ask him back for 2012. So he went searching for a place that took football and academics as seriously as he did. With just one autumn of competition left in his life, he wasn't about to waste it with a program that didn't match his desire for success.
Because Newman is a communications major, the Cardinals coaches took him to the David Letterman Communication and Media Building. The deal to get Newman to Muncie was done.
“The coaches knew that school was important to me,” Newman explained. “The facility was bar none the best. They could hold their own local show themselves (and do). It was very impressive, almost breathtaking. They had me sold on the school just having me around on the campus.”
That took care of the academic end of the deal, but Newman still was curious about whom he would be playing alongside and being coached by. He had spent the past four seasons working among future NFL players, and he wasn't quite sure what to expect from the Cardinal players and coaches.
“I'm not a senior in high school, I'm a senior in college,” Newman said. “I'm not looking for bells and whistles. I'm looking for the logistics and the ways that I can get better. I needed to look at the coaches and how they work, the strength coach and the facilities of where I need to get my work done.”
Newman was closest at Notre Dame with Irish strength coach Paul Longo, and he wanted a similar situation in Muncie. He has received that from Cardinals strength coach David Feeley.
“He is very passionate and intense,” Newman said of Feeley. “I feel like passion is one of those things that get lost among the qualities of people when it comes to this sport. Coach Feeley is very passionate about the game and making people better.”
Newman had a sense that he would be coached well by the Ball State staff, but again, after competing among future NFL Draft selections for the past four seasons, he was still curious about what level of commitment and talent that he would get from his Cardinals teammates. So far this summer, so good.
“I wondered what kind of look that I was going to get in practice so that I could get ready to play in these games,” Newman said. “One thing that coach Longo told me when I was leaving was that there was going to be about 35 guys (at Ball State) that could play at Notre Dame. It just didn't happen for them for whatever reason. I don't see how this team isn't the most dominating team in the (Mid-American Conference). What's missing? These guys are so talented.”
Many aspects of the Cardinals program have impressed Newman, but perhaps none more so than the players' work ethic.
“At Notre Dame, there are a lot of guys that have that God-given size and even God-give instincts when it comes to the football field,” Newman said. “(The Ball State) guys don't have that, but because of that, they are one of the hardest-working football teams I've seen. These guys work so hard. These guys work so hard, and that was an adjustment for me. Not that we didn't work hard at Notre Dame, we did. But these guys are firing on all cylinders all of the time. There is no rest for them because they know, that is what they need.”