Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II, a first-team All-Big Ten cornerback, is declaring for the NFL draft. He projects as a top-100 prospect in the 2021 NFL draft, the type of lanky and physical corner that scouts covet. Newsome informed Yahoo Sports of his decision in a phone interview.
Newsome is a third-year junior for the Wildcats who led the Big Ten with 10 total pass breakups in 2020. He emerged as a star for Northwestern this year, relishing matching up against the opposition’s No. 1 wide receiver and developing a reputation for an in-your-face style. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, he brings a length and physicality that’s attractive to NFL teams.
Newsome told his teammates on Sunday night that he’d be leaving school for the draft, which he called both “exciting and heartbreaking.” He won’t be playing in the Citrus Bowl against Auburn because of a groin injury against Ohio State in the Big Ten title game on Saturday.
“I really wanted to leave it out there on the field and be with them at the end,” Newsome told Yahoo Sports of his decision to leave. “That was the reason it was a little bit heartbreaking, that college career and that brotherhood is coming to an end.”
Newsome planned on playing in Northwestern’s bowl game prior to the injury, saying he was “100% committed” before the groin kept him out of the second half of the Ohio State game. He said the injury should heal in two-to-three weeks, and then he’ll begin to prepare for the NFL combine.
Newsome said that he’s kept an open dialogue with Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald about declaring for the draft. He said that Fitzgerald recommended that he leave, which Newsome said is indicative of why Fitzgerald is a players’ coach.
“Being a real man and the real person he is, he said, ‘If you were my son, I would tell you to leave.’ When he told me that, I was committed and ready to take the next step to the NFL. There’s no other coach in the country that I’d rather play for.”
Newsome’s defining game of the season came when he slowed Purdue star David Bell to 78 yards on Nov. 14, which came after Bell had registered five consecutive 100-yard games. In Northwestern’s next three games against Wisconsin, Michigan State and Illinois, he allowed just one total catch in 11 targets.
Newsome proved a key cog in a Northwestern defense that finished No. 1 nationally in team pass efficiency defense and No. 5 in scoring defense (15.5 ppg). In a season when coordinator Mike Hankwitz’s smothering defenses keyed Northwestern’s turnaround from 3-9 in 2019 to Big Ten West champions, Newsome’s ability to shut down the other team’s top receiver provided a key to the unit’s success.
“It was incredible,” he said of the program’s turnaround. “This brotherhood is unmatched and this team is unmatched. Man, this whole experience has been incredible.”
Newsome also started four games as a true freshman when Northwestern also won the Big Ten West, as he credits defensive backs coach Matt MacPherson for having faith in him early and allowing him to make mistakes. As a sophomore, Newsome finished second in the Big Ten in pass breakups.
Newsome said that he plans to bring a “no drama” presence to an NFL locker room, where he’ll be “the same guy every day.” At Northwestern, both he and top 2021 offensive line prospect Rashawn Slater earned reputations from the staff for being zero maintenance.
Newsome acknowledged the key to his draft stock will be running a fast time at the NFL combine. He said that scouts have been impressed with his game speed, and they need empirical evidence that it will translate.
“I’m just hoping to show everyone in the country that I’m a fast guy,” he said. “A lot of scouts say I play fast, and I’m really looking forward to getting combine training to show the scouts in Indianapolis that I’m a blazer as well.”
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