By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
David Fulcher. Phillippi Sparks. Eric Allen. Anthony Parker.
The names of former Arizona State players read like a litany of great college defensive backs.
Craig Newsome may one day find his name next to those current NFL players, but because of a four-game suspension and a nagging injury this year, the preseason All-America cornerback will have to satisfy himself with thinking about what might have been.
"He definitely could be one of the best," said ASU defensive coordinator Kent Baer. "But he's had a very disappointing year. We have not seen truly what Craig Newsome can do. He has carried on our tradition, although maybe not as much as he or I would have liked him to."
Although still projected by pro scouts as one of the top two or three cornerbacks available for next April's NFL draft, Newsome seems unconcerned about being another outstanding Sun Devil defensive back.
"I came here because of the coaches, not the tradition," Newsome said of his decision to go to Tempe after a two-year stint at San Bernardino (Calif.) Valley College, where he was a second-team Junior College All-American. "I was aware of Kevin Miniefield (Detroit Lions, 1992, eighth round) and Phillippi Sparks (New York Giants, 1991, second round), but I didn't know about David Fulcher (Cincinnati Bengals, 1985, third round) or Darren Woodson (Dallas Cowboys, 1991, second round).
"People say that I am carrying on a tradition, but I don't think about that. I just go out and play hard."
Playing hard or hardly playing. Newsome had to finish some incomplete course work before he could suit up this season, and that caused him to miss the first four games of the year, and then a deep bruise in his left shoulder and neck area sustained during ASU's 35-14 loss at Washington has caused Newsome to miss parts of several games, including most of the final three quarters two weeks ago against Oregon and most of the second half last week against UCLA.
For Newsome, the worst part of the suspension was sitting out while his team was struggling.
"I just wanted to come back and try to help us win," Newsome said. "All I could do was watch the team lose, and when I got back I tried to make plays."
"It has affected him quite a bit," Baer said about the suspension. "He was real rusty at first, but since he started playing he hasn't been healthy. He's been fairly healthy for
only one game. The injury's been a real concern, those bruises can sometimes become a full blown stinger. He has a tough time lifting his arm. Against UCLA he was playing with his legs and body, not his arms."
Coming off a junior season that saw him log 57 total tackles and 12 passes deflected on his way to being named a first-team all-Pacific 10 Conference selection, Newsome began his senior year full of promise. He was named to Playboy's All-America team and was a candidate for the Jim Thorpe award, given annually to the nation's top defensive back.
"It's been tough," Newsome said. "Last year I played in every game, but this year I've been kind of rusty. I'm nowhere near the level I was at last year."
As much as last year and this year have been like night and day for Newsome, next year will be a whole new ballgame.
"I do think about the NFL," he said. "But I'm just trying to stay focused on the next week's game. All I can do is play my game and let the other stuff fall into place."
The pros should help pay some bills, which is good, because besides being an athlete and a student, Newsome is also a husband and the father of a two-year old boy.
"I have a wife and a kid, and I have to feed and take care of them," Newsome said. "I think those checks will help."
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