Commanders pick Pinellas County’s Johnny Newton in draft’s 2nd round

Last fall, he logged more snaps than any major-college defensive tackle despite a midseason foot injury. On Friday night, Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton parlayed that pain into NFL prosperity.

The University of Illinois behemoth, a Clearwater Central Catholic alumnus, was drafted by the Washington Commanders with the 36th overall pick in the second round.

One of five siblings to play at CCC, Newton — a fourth-year junior and Illini captain — had a monster season last fall. He led all Big Ten defensive tackles with 44 quarterback hurries, and his 7.5 sacks ranked third nationally among players at his position. He also blocked four kicks.

But arguably as impressive as his prolificness was his pain tolerance. Newton suffered a Jones fracture, in the middle part of his foot, midway through the season, but never was sidelined. To the contrary, he logged 749 snaps — most of any Football Bowl Subdivision defensive tackle — en route to being named a consensus first-team All-American and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

“Johnny didn’t tell anyone (about the injury),” his older brother Jervon said. “He never complained about pain or anything. In high school he played with a broken fibula (in 2018), so I’m not surprised he played with a broken foot and never came out of the game.”

Newton reportedly had surgery in January, causing him to bypass workouts at the NFL combine. Early last week, he held a personal pro day in Champaign, doing lineman-centric drills but skipping the 40-yard dash.

He becomes CCC’s first NFL draftee since linebacker Colin McCarthy was taken by the Titans in the fourth round in 2011.

Contact Joey Knight at Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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