ATHENS, Ga. — It didn’t take long for Newton football to get back on the recruiting map — if, indeed, it ever left.
Anyone around the program will tell you that last season’s 4-7 finish with a first round playoff loss to West Forsyth was subpar for the Rams’ standards. Even from a recruiting standpoint, Newton had several athletes sign scholarships. But the recruiting attention wasn’t exactly what Newton fans have been accustomed to over the last four or five years.
Well, that seemed to begin to change almost immediately after Newton’s spring game romp of Salem back in mid May.
To be sure, this young Salem bunch wasn’t the same star-studded group that piqued recruiters’ interests and served as a bit of a program turning point for head coach Jarrett Laws. But this also wasn’t the same Newton squad.
In the spring game, the Rams look more poised and polished — no glaring penalties in the game — than what they’d shown in times past. And then, less than 48 hours after, the offers started rolling in.
Nyland Green, the rangy, 6-foot-3 junior wide receiver-turned-defensive back started getting them in droves, seemingly one after the other. First Middle Tennessee State and Kentucky came calling before the spring game. But after?
There was Akron, Colorado State, Tennessee, North Carolina, Purdue and Kansas coming literally hours after spring game. Syracuse and South Florida would follow later in the month of May. Then Wednesday it was Clemson, the 2018 national champions. And Thursday, Toledo. That’s not including the overtures he’s received from Michigan State, UCF, Minnesota and Rutgers — the latter being his first Power Five offer. He’s got over 20.
Around the same time, senior Robert Lewis, a three-star wideout, started racking up also with Western Kentucky, Chattanooga, Kansas, Purdue and USF coming just a couple of days after the spring session’s culmination.
Then, players like Diondre Glover and Josh Hardeman got into the act. Glover’s a 6-foot-1 athlete who runs a 4.47-second 40-yard dash and has recently received overtures from UNC-Charlotte, UNLV and Colorado State. Hardeman’s also been offered by Purdue, UNC-Charlotte, Marshall and North Carolina A&T, among others.
The cool thing about the widespread attention Newton football is getting on the recruiting trail is that there’s no competition to be found amongst these college-hopeful Rams. In fact, the opposite is happening, according to head coach Camiel Grant.
“I think we’re blessed with this group of kids. I really do,” Grant said. “This group of kids like each other, and this group of juniors and seniors really, genuinely like playing with each other. And they really are happy for each other when it comes to someone getting an offer.”
Hardeman backed up his coach’s assessment shortly after getting that first offer from Purdue.
“I think all the offers we’re starting to get just shows that there’s a lot of talent in the program,” Hardeman said. “Even some of the people who don’t have offers that are flying under the radar are very talented.”
The running back/safety mentioned players like slotback Jerrol Hines, linebackers Ronald Graves and Tamarian Baynes, running back Quincy Cullins who transferred over from Eastside and offensive lineman K’noah Franklin.
“I think this just shows how much depth we have on our team at every position,” he added. “But none of this happens without hard work.”
And as the spring has given way to summer and the multiple padded camps and 7-on-7 passing leagues across the state, the Rams are starting to show others that the hard work is paying off.
Newton had a solid showing Thursday during the UGA 7-on-7 tournament in Athens, bouncing back from an opening loss to rip off four straight wins before falling to Eagle’s Landing in the quarterfinals.
Both quarterbacks, senior Neal Howard and 6-foot-4 sophomore JeVarra Martin — also a starting pitcher on the Rams’ baseball team — had impressive flashes. But assistant coach Josh Skelton said he was particularly impressed Thursday with the play of Newton’s defensive backs who grabbed a total of 11 interceptions.
“Diondre Glover, Nyland Green, Josh Hardeman and Robert Lewis,” Skelton said. “Those guys played very well, and together they dominated on defense as well as offense.”
Both Skelton, Hardeman and Grant believe the team is just scratching the surface in terms of offers, as a bevy of talented, yet unheralded upperclassman and incoming freshmen and sophomores are chomping at the bit to not only get noticed, but to also help Newton give Grant a banner 2019 season as he paces the sidelines for the first time as a head coach.
“Hopefully we can keep (the offers and recruitment) going,” Grant said. “You know, sometimes as the football season goes and players start getting more offers than others, that’s the time that you really have to balance it and make sure other guys aren’t getting discouraged. But we keep telling these guys that if you do what’s best for Newton, you’ll get what’s best for you. We continue to preach that, and right now it’s paying off.”