Timmy Newsome’s memory is as sharp as the cuts he made in the late 1970s as a star running back for Winston-Salem State.
All those memories bubbled to the surface when it was announced earlier this month that he was selected to the Black College Football Hall of Fame. He’s already enshrined in the Big House Gaines Hall of Fame and CIAA Hall of Fame.
Newsome, 60, said he couldn’t help but remember his first team meeting with Coach Bill Hayes and the rest his new WSSU teammates in August of 1976.
“We’re all sitting there and he calls out my name,” Newsome said by telephone from his home in Dallas, where he played fullback for the Cowboys. “He calls me up front and says he is moving me to offense. So he says, ‘We’ve got enough good defensive players, so I need you on offense.’”
And that was how one of the best running backs in WSSU’s storied history found his position with the Rams.
Newsome signed out of Ahoskie High School, which has since closed, in the eastern part of the state. He played a little bit at running back in high school, but he thought of himself as a defensive player. He was a safety and a cornerback at 6-foot-2 and around 180 pounds.
By the time he was drafted by the Cowboys in the sixth round in 1980, he was 235 pounds. He wound up playing fullback for Coach Tom Landry and the Cowboys for nine seasons.
“I never lost my speed while I was gaining the weight and that’s how I ended up going to the NFL,” said Newsome, who made the Dallas Cowboys Weekly Newspaper All-Decade Team (1980-89).
Newsome arrived at WSSU at the same time as Hayes, which was right after Hayes left his job as an assistant coach at Wake Forest. Newsome remembers when Hayes visited his high school.
“He ended up telling us he had taken the job at Winston-Salem State, so that’s where I was going,” said Newsome, who played from 1976 until 1979 and helped the Rams win CIAA titles in 1977 and ’78.
Hayes was trying to get a two-for-one deal also recruiting an offensive lineman. Milton Smith was supposed to go to WSSU as well, but he didn’t show up.
“So Milton decides college wasn’t for him so I was thinking that maybe my scholarship might not be there,” Newsome said with a laugh. “But it turned out OK.”
It turned out better than OK for Newsome, who gained 3,834 yards in his career and scored 40 touchdowns playing on some of the best teams in school history. His rushing total is second behind only Richard Huntley’s 6,286 yards.
Hayes built a powerhouse at WSSU, and Newsome was a key player in that project.
As part of the 10th Hall of Fame class, Newsome will be enshrined in February in Atlanta. Hayes was inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame last year.
“It’s a national honor, and that means a lot,” Newsome said. “And knowing Coach Hayes helped push for me getting in means the world to me.”
Newsome is part of a class that includes Emerson Boozer (Maryland Eastern Shore), Hugh Douglas (Central State), Rich “Tombstone” Jackson (Southern), Frank Lewis (Grambling State), John Taylor (Delaware State), and Coach Arnett “Ace” Mumford (Jarvis Christian College, Bishop College, Texas College and Southern University).
Newsome suffered a knee injury his freshman season at WSSU. That summer after the injury, his mother made a purchase of some weights to help him rehabilitate the injury.
“My late parents were so instrumental in my success,” Newsome recalled.
Before all his glory on the football field, however, Newsome also remembered a chance meeting with a fellow WSSU student. As he stood in a long line registering for classes, he was certain about majoring in physical education because he wanted to coach.
“But we were out there practicing in the heat, and I was feeling sorry for myself and thinking that I don’t know if I want to coach football after graduating,” Newsome said. “And then I talked to a student about what he was majoring in and the conversation made me really think. So I decided to major in computer science and business administration.”
That decision helped him after his NFL career was over because his thriving computer software company, which he has owned for the past 27 years in Dallas, has kept him busy. Newsome is also an avid runner who has run in several marathons and keeps himself in great shape.
“I feel a lot younger,” he said.
Newsome said he owes a lot of his success to his strong upbringing provided by his parents. He also said his high school coaches and coaches at WSSU turned him into a man.
One of his favorite stories about Hayes came after the Rams won the CIAA title for the first time in school history in 1977. In the spring of 1978, Hayes wasn’t getting anywhere in trying to beef up the program’s facilities, having his requests turned down by the school administration. They had just come off an 11-1 season, but had nothing to show for it.
Hayes decided to talk with the players about what could get the school administration to listen.
“We still had no locker and weight room, had sub-standard equipment and lacked other amenities most programs took for granted,” Newsome said. “After practicing in the spring for just over a week, he got us together in the middle of practice and suggested we should protest the conditions we had to practice and play under. He made it clear it was not a demand and not even a request. But it was something we should seriously think about doing.”
Newsome said after talking among themselves, members of the team decided to march to the administration building on campus in full football gear.
“Dr. Haywood Wilson, who was the vice chancellor for student affairs, came out with his notepad and wanted to know what we needed,” Newsome said. “On the spot we gave him a list of items that were required for a championship football team. Less than a month later, construction began on a locker and weight room. And new practice and game uniforms were ordered as well.”
What Newsome remembered about the whole experience was that Hayes only spoke to the team for about five minutes. But what he said struck a chord.
“He never discussed it before or after that brief moment on the field,” Newsome said. “In the fall of 1978 we went undefeated again and made the D-II playoffs.”