COVINGTON, Ga. — By the time Week 2 of the college football season is done, close to two dozen Newton Rams football players will have taken unofficial visits to various colleges and universities across the southeast.
Last week, about 15 Rams took advantage of their bye week to visit Georgia State, Georgia and Georgia Tech in each respective school’s season opener. Others journeyed to places like Vanderbilt and Alabama A&M.
And this week class off 2020 athletes, Diondre Glover, Tyon Bigby and Robert Lewis will join Nyland Green (2021 CB) and 2022 prospects Elijah Zollicoffer and Nolan Mccamy at South Carolina to watch the Gamecocks take on UGA, while safety Khalil Wilcox — fresh off an impressive performance against Arabia Mountain
Around the middle of each week, you can expect Newton assistant coach Josh Skelton to post photos of players taking visits on Twitter, along with their destinations. And he does it with pride, with the blessing of head coach Terrance Banks.
In fact, Banks will tell you that the Rams put just as much emphasis on getting student-athletes to the next level as trying to win state championships. Banks said the reasoning for that is simple.
“Rings rust,” Banks said. “And this game, the game of football, is finite. When you play basketball, you can go play pickup basketball when your career is done. When you play baseball, you can do adult league baseball, but really when you’re done playing football, you’re done playing football with pads on. So we focus on getting those guys to the next level to play, but also to get that college education.”
Banks isn’t shooing off or downplaying the idea of Newton competing for Class AAAAAAA state championships. It’s just that he wants his program to think big picture when it comes to the future of his kids.
“It’s not to say we don’t want a state championship,” Banks said. “We play the game to win the game. But certain schools value different things. What we value here at Newton, we value kids playing at the next level. We value it and we spend a lot of time on it.”
And there’s plenty of evidence of it paying off. Over the past two years alone, the Rams have sent over 30 football athletes to various colleges ranging from Power Five, to Ivy League and military academies to NAIA schools and JUCOs.
Guys like West Virginia safety Toyous Avery and South Carolina DB Steven Montac join JJ Holloman (UGA) and Darnell Jefferies (Clemson) at the Power Five level while Jaison Taylor and Robert Black, IV are making their marks at Navy and Air Force respectively.
But players such as former Newton defensive back Rod Kirkland have found homes at places like St. Andrews College, a NAIA school in Laurinburg, North Carolina, and are dominating.
It’s proof to Banks that a plethora of opportunities exist for a high school football player who wants to get a college education while continuing to play the sport he loves.
“We have kids here all the time who want to play at the next level,” Banks said. “There won’t be an opportunity for all of them, but for many of them it’s there to maximize if they want it. Every kid won’t take it or be good enough to get playing time there, but there’s a school out there for everybody who wants to play these next few years.”
Banks said pushing his kids to next-level opportunities is the least he and his staff can do in response for all that they ask of them as high school student-athletes.
“I basically ask our kids to give me their lives while they’re at Newton High School,” Banks said. “We take them from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. every day during the season. We ask them for four hours during the summer. Mornings in the winters. What would I be as a coach and what would we be as a staff if we didn’t do everything we could to not only win games, but help our kids win in life?”