HAMMOND — When Southeastern Louisiana senior defensive end Jacob Newman learned of his selection to the All-Southland Conference’s preseason first team, the distinction barely registered on his radar.
“The preseason doesn’t mean a whole lot,” he said. “It’s kind of like coach (Ron Roberts) says: ‘If you have potential, that means you haven’t done anything with it.’ ”
Considering that Newman finished his first season at Southeastern as a second-team all-league pick a year ago and was third in the league in both tackles for losses and sacks, the advanced billing wasn’t off-base.
But, while appreciative of the honor, Newman’s not enamored with bringing attention to himself. There’s a standard of play he has established for himself that is rooted more within the Lions’ team concept.
“I’m more or less another guy on the defense,” he said. “I’m someone who plays and hopefully does his job and tackles the guy with the ball. That’s what I like, and that’s what I envision myself as.”
Not even the modest Newman could ignore his performance in No. 11 SLU’s 24-23 loss Saturday at Southeast Missouri.
Newman equaled his career high with seven tackles to go with a pass breakup. That pushed the 6-foot-2, 290-pounder’s season totals to 13 tackles — tops among the Lions interior linemen — to go with a sack.
“I think I’ve had a decent couple of games,” he said. “By no means were they great or anything. I have a lot of things I still need to improve on to help this team.”
When it came to Newman’s recruiting, Roberts went back to his native Visalia, California — and to the College of the Sequoias, the community college where he played — to secure an anchor in SLU’s 3-3 stack alignment. Roberts envisioned Newman as a run stopper with the ability to rush the passer, and both traits have played out.
“He had all the intangible things you look for,” Roberts said. “He was a tough kid and really hard worker who was also a really good student. You can win with those guys.”
Newman finished his career at Visalia’s El Diamante High as the team’s MVP his senior year. He opted to remain home at the College of the Sequoias after recruiting interest was minimal.
“I could have gone somewhere just for academics, but I wanted to keep playing and earn a scholarship,” Newman said. “I wanted to stay home and close to the family and to my two little brothers.”
Newman twice earned first-team all-conference honors, recording 21 tackles, eight behind the line of scrimmage and three sacks in his final season. He concluded his career with 37 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and six sacks.
With a couple of Division II and NAIA options on the table, Newman gravitated toward Roberts’ warm personality and committed sight unseen to continue his playing career more than 2,000 miles away.
“I wanted to play football a lot,” Newman said. “It wasn’t that big of a deal for me to decide to leave and go somewhere new. Football was my main passion. It wasn’t too big of a deal knowing it was so far away from home.”
Newman, who arrived last spring, felt relaxed in his new setting and immediately found a home on SLU’s defensive line. He wound up with 42 tackles, including a high of seven against Central Arkansas, and ranked among the Southland’s top three in tackles for loss with 14 and sacks with seven.
“I had a decent year,” Newman said. “I think I should have played a little better. I’ve tried to correct my mistakes this year so I can hopefully rise to a higher level and make a better mark.”