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Brandon Newman leaves mark in many ways, including with ‘Trick Shot Mondays’

Conor Kelly | Thursday, November 17, 2011

In 2007, when former Irish defensive coordinator Corwin Brown approached Brandon Newman about taking an unofficial visit to Notre Dame, the defensive tackle first balked at the idea.

“I said, ‘Coach, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get to South Bend,’ Newman said. “Then he said, ‘You don’t think you can make it to Indiana?’ So of course I said, ‘Notre Dame’s in Indiana?’”

Given Newman’s uncertainty about Notre Dame’s geographic location, his commitment was a recruiting victory for the Irish, who beat out Stanford for the services of the 6-0, 300-pound defensive lineman from Pleasure Ridge Park High School in Louisville, Ky. While Newman can now point out South Bend on a map, his impact on Notre Dame and its football program can be seen in his leadership and mentorship of younger players, as well as his contributions to a close-knit locker room and stalwart play as a reserve lineman.

Newman has appeared in two games during his Notre Dame career, playing defensive tackle against Washington State in 2009 and against Navy in 2011.

Newman arrived on campus among the 2008 recruiting class headlined by names like Dayne Crist, Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph. In his first two years, Newman witnessed the tumultuous seasons of 2008 and 2009, during which the Irish posted disappointing six-loss records, testing the unity of his class.

“No matter who the coaches were, no matter who was in, even when all the freshmen were really struggling when we first got here, we came together as a class and really stuck together,” Newman said. “We said we could all get through this together.”

Struggles for Newman came in the form of adjusting to college life, being away from home and the grind of being a full-time football player. At times, Newman wondered if he had made the right choice.

“When I came in, I struggled a lot being away from home. I think the biggest challenge was just getting used to the football and the academics,” Newman, who boasted a 3.9 GPA in high school, said. “I wasn’t sure if this was the place for me, but all the older upperclassmen just told me to hang in there.”

The Stanford Hall resident cites veteran leaders like David Grimes, Maurice Crum, Jr. and Ian Williams for helping him adjust to life and football at Notre Dame, a task he now feels obligated to fulfill with the Irish’s young cohort of talented defensive linemen. That group includes freshmen Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt and sophomore Louis Nix.

“I feel that I’m one of the more vocal guys on the team,” Newman said. “We have a lot of young guys playing on the defensive line, so we’re making sure that their heads are in the game and their assignments are correct. I think I’m seen as a leader just because I’m always there for any questions.”

Newman’s role in fostering locker room unity can be seen in Notre Dame’s most recent foray into social media, “Trick Shot Mondays,” a new tradition that is the brainchild of Newman and senior center Mike Golic, Jr. The weakly event features various Irish players shooting a ping-pong ball into a cup filled with water from all different angles and trajectories. Only when the shot is made does the team get to eat dinner. Newman, a Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) major, directs the filming of the attempts and posts the resulting videos on YouTube.

“They let Trick Shot Mondays be the baby of me and Mike Golic just because we’re both FTT majors,” Newman said. “We know all about that stuff, what looks good on camera, what to say and what not to say. It’s been a lot of fun. We love the fans’ input, and getting a view of us outside the helmet is really cool.”

Though it looks as though Newman has a promising career ahead of him in television, he looks to continue playing football after this season. Newman plans on applying for a fifth year of eligibility at Notre Dame. If he does not return to the Irish, he plans on taking his last year of eligibility to another school.

For now, Newman is intent on enjoying his time remaining with his teammates.

“These are some of my best friends here on the team and guys I know I’m going to be friends with the rest of my life,” Newman said. “We really take for granted being able to see each other on a day-to-day basis, like coming back after beating USC last year — it was five a.m. here, but we were so excited that we didn’t want to go to sleep. Those are some of my fondest memories.”

For a student that four years ago had barely heard of Notre Dame, Newman has made his mark on the campus and the team in ways that go far beyond the stat sheet — Trick Shot Mondays are just the beginning.