Nashville High senior Royce Newman kept his college football choice in the Southeastern Conference, but made a switch from Missouri to the University of Mississippi following a recruiting visit to Ole Miss over the weekend.
Newman made the announcement Monday on his Twitter account, saying “Happy to announce I’ll be committing to Ole Miss.”
”My phone was blowing up for a while,” Newman said later. “It got pretty crazy. The whole town of Nashville is really happy with my decision. It’s been pretty cool.”
The 6-foot-7, 260-pound two-sport standout originally committed to Missouri as an offensive lineman last June. But with the resignation of former Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel, Newman re-opened his recruiting and had offers from schools like Ole Miss, Nebraska, Penn State and several others.
Newman was clearly impressed by his visit to the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Miss. He had visited Missouri and Nebraska previously.
“Everything about it was awesome,” he said of the Ole Miss visit. “Just the coaching staff, the people, the whole college atmosphere. It was remarkable. The facilities were great and the people of Oxford were tremendous. Going out to the restaurants and stuff, all they were talking about was football.”
Arkansas and Auburn got in on the process late, as did Georgia. Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze visited Nashville two weeks ago and Nebraska coach Mike Riley watched the Hornets practice during the football playoffs.
Several more coaches were in town last week watching Newman play basketball at the Nashville Invitational Tournament.
“It was kind of a revolving door,” Nashville football coach Tim Kuhn said Monday. “We had Arkansas in the building and Georgia was in town on Monday night. Nashville doesn’t get this kind of attention very often. We get recruiters in, but not this national barrage of coaches.”
“It was really cool to have people like that come to Nashville,” Newman said.
Newman was rated as the top offensive tackle prospect in Illinois by Scout.com and the 14th best offensive tackle prospect in the country. Rivals.com had Newman rated as the 17th best senior prospect in Illinois regardless of position and some major college football programs in some of the top conferences were willing to take a chance on someone whose main offensive line experience came as a tight end.
“That was pretty crazy,” he said. “I’ve never played offensive tackle before. I was a tight end and I was blocking almost every single play, so that doesn’t change.”
Newman has been a first-team News-Democrat All-Area performer in both football and basketball as well as an all-state basketball player. He helped the Hornets to a second-place finish at the 2014 Class 2A state basketball tournament and also was a two-way starter on Nashville’s football team that reached the Class 2A semifinals in November.
Kuhn enjoyed his visits with the Division I coaches as well and kept hearing a common theme when they would talk about Newman’s attributes.
“It was just his motor and how he plays the game,” Kuhn said. “He’s just relentless, not taking plays off, the physical nature of the way he plays the game. Things have changed. They don’t want the 300-pounders coming in, they want the 265-pound or 270-pound athlete that’s played basketball or played baseball. His athleticism and skills are off the charts. There’s going to be a transition period for sure, but I think he’ll embrace the challenge.”
Newman knows that while he may be a big man on campus at Nashville, that won’t be the case when he begins competing at an SEC school as a freshman.
“I’ve got to work hard and lift and get up to my weight I need to get to,” he said. “I’m very happy it’s over with. Now I can just focus on basketball and school and everything.”
According to the Columbia (Mo.) Tribune, Newman is the sixth player to de-commit from Missouri since Pinkel announced Nov. 13 he would be resigning.