INDIANAPOLIS -- Defensive end Jonathan Newsome doesn't hide behind his checkered past. He knows he made mistakes, the kind that caused him to transfer from Ohio State to Ball State, a mid-major college in the Mid-American Conference. Newsome owned up to those mistakes during a conference call moments after the Indianapolis Colts made him the No. 166 overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft on Saturday.
Newsome started his college career with the Buckeyes but transferred because he was "living it up a little bit too much" at Ohio State. He missed spring practice in 2011 because of academic problems.
"I was young and I was dumb, honestly," Newsome said. "Young and dumb and making dumb decisions as far as my academics, and I lost trust in my coaches. Before I had stayed there and tried to dig myself out of a hole that was so deep. I'd rather go get a fresh start at Ball State, where I had some former high school teammates that were playing there and a good supporting staff. That was the reason I left. I just needed a fresh start."
New school, same troubles for Newsome.
He was suspended two games at Ball State after being arrested in August 2012 for marijuana possession when a bag containing marijuana was found in his wallet. He was also held on a warrant after an incident in November 2011 when he and a teammate were accused of shoplifting.
"My mother's always been supportive of me," Newsome said. "Even when I did mess up, she was always there for me. And my head coach from high school, coach [Ted] Ginn [Sr.], was always there in my corner. When I messed up, he got me back right, got my focus back right and all my priorities straight.
"There were times when there was doubt, but ultimately, I was mentally tough enough to overcome all that stuff, and now I'm just sitting here and I'm an Indianapolis Colt. I can't even explain how crazy that story is, to go from almost getting kicked out of school to being an NFL draft pick, graduate. Everything's looking up and I'm going to continue with this success. I don't plan on having any more bumps in the road."
The Colts did thorough research on Newsome, and, just like he was with the media Saturday, he was just as honest to team officials when he met with them.
"If you lie, you’re dead to us," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said.
Newsome had 116 tackles (26 for a loss) and 16.5 sacks in his two seasons at Ball State.
"The tape doesn’t lie," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "It’s out there and the guy is a football junkie. It’s his whole life, and he’s a four core special-teams guy, and he embraces that. He loves that. It’s hard. As you guys know, it’s hard to find pass-rushers, and the way our league’s going, you can never have enough of them, so we feel great. As the board was getting plucked away, we were sweating bullets."
Former Colts general manager and current ESPN NFL analyst Bill Polian said Newsome has "Robert Mathis-like ability."
"I think that’s a good comparison," Newsome said. "We ran multiple fronts at Ball State. We ran 4-3, we ran 3-4, we ran a lot of nickel. When we ran 3-4, I was an outside linebacker. I stood up a lot. When we ran a 4-3, I stood up on the edge. I can do all that stuff."
Mathis, like Newsome, came out of a small school -- Alabama A&M -- and he's turned in what should be a Hall of Fame career. Mathis has 111 career sacks.
"I’m going to be his little brother. He doesn’t know it yet, but I’m going to be like his little brother," Newsome said. "I’m going to learn from [him]. I watched him all last year. We have similar builds.
"I can’t wait to learn from him. He led the league in sacks last year. That’s what I love to do -- sack the quarterback. Why not learn from the best?"