From the sports editor: Newman moving on from CR

John Newman was just a month or two removed from his own playing career when he first started coaching.

The North Jersey kid, who had been a quarterback at West Chester, was a mid-year replacement for a Dover Air Force Base teaching position in January, 1976.

The guy that Newman was taking over for, Les White, was not only a teacher but a baseball coach as well.

“I remember going for my interview and they didn’t ask me a lot of questions about teaching,” said Newman. “They asked me, ‘Do you want to coach?’ And I was like, ‘Absolutely, I want to coach.’”

Two days after he interviewed, Newman was in the classroom teaching. And 40 years later, he’s still around, coaching. CR baseball-John Newman-4

But, in a lot of ways, that era is about to end.

After 40 seasons as an assistant football coach in the Caesar Rodney School District (including two years at the now-defunct Dover Air), the 62-year-old Newman will be on the sidelines at a different school next fall.

Newman will be helping his son, Blair, who was recently named the head coach for First State Military’s football program. The Clayton school is starting with a JV team next fall.

“He’s my son, I love him,” said Newman. “I want to watch him grow the program and I want to try to help him anyway I can.

“It was a hard choice and it was an easy choice. The hard choice was, you spend 40 years in a district. … I’m so lucky that I have so many relationships with people that played for us and coached with us and great memories. It’s tough to walk away from that. And it’s tough to walk away from coaching with Candy (current head coach Dan Candeloro) because we’ve coached together for so long. I want to help him so much.

“But the easy choice is, here’s my son going to start a program. You don’t how many years you have left coaching. You kind of want to be around your family.”

While Newman hopes to stay on as CR’s golf coach, coaching football somewhere else will be a big change for him.

Football is the only sport he’s ever coached in the fall and the CR district is the only place he’s ever coached.

Newman has worked under some top-notch head football coaches, men like Baxter Webber, Jim Brooks, John Coveleski, Tom Leonard and Mike Schonewolf.

He’s helped the Riders win seven state titles — two in football, two in wrestling and three in golf.

But Newman, who was named the state Assistant Coach of the Year in football in 2012, cherishes the friendship he has with CR’s other longtime assistants, Brian Berns, Jim Fennemore and Dave Manwiller.

“They’re like brothers to me,” said Newman.

Of course, Newman was also CR’s successful baseball coach for 24 seasons — not to mention an athletic director (at Dover Air), head boys’ basketball coach, JV wrestling coach and assistant track & field coach.

That makes for a lot of great memories. When it comes to memorable football games, Newman said “any game against Dover” would make his list.

“As long as something was on the line,” he said. “If we were both having bad seasons, it wasn’t that big a game. But if it was for the conference championship, if it was for a state tournament berth, those are games that you always remembered.”

Then there were the three times that CR lost to a team in the regular season only to come back and beat them in the football state tournament.

That included 2008 when the Riders beat Sussex Central in the Division I state finals.

“I’ve got to say this,” said Newman. “Mike Schonewolf did the best coaching job I’ve ever been with in that championship game. He broke down that first game that we lost and showed the kids exactly what they needed to do.

“They bought into that and they had confidence. … It was something that was amazing.”

Coaching has always been a big part of Newman’s family.

Among the sports memorabilia hanging in his Wyoming home is a photo of his dad coaching him on the sidelines when he was a high school QB. There’s also one of he and Blair coaching together at CR.

Newman hopes he gets to have a few more moments like that before he retires.

“You don’t get into this and say, ‘I’m going to do it for 40 years,’” he said. “You do it because you love to do it. The neat thing about high school is there’s new kids all the time. You keep getting to make new relationships and keep trying to get to that common goal.

“It certainly lights up my day when people (former players) come up to me and tell me they remember playing. That’s why I like team sports so much. You develop a special bond with people. … That’s what’s made this whole thing special. And I wouldn’t give up those things for anything.”

Odds & ends

  • The Henlopen Conference championships in both tennis and track & field are on tap this week. The track meet will be held on Thursday and Friday, starting at 4 p.m. at Lake Forest High. The conference tennis tournament will be played Thursday through Friday at Sea Colony in Bethany.
  • Seaford High’s stunning 6-4 win over Cape Henlopen in baseball on Thursday snapped a 22-game Henlopen Conference losing streak for the Blue Jays.
  • Delmar High grad Alex Ellis beat the odds by earning a free-agent contract with the Titans this weekend.

A former walk-on tight end at the University of Tennessee, the 6-foot-4, 236-pound Ellis has also had to deal with diabetes. But he drew the attention of scouts at the Vols’ Pro Day.

“Hard work will get you anywhere,” Ellis told the Knoxville News. “… That’s what it’s going to take, how I’ve always done it. Hard work hasn’t failed me. I’ve always tried to be the hardest worker. Now it’s not just in college football. I want to be up there as one of the hardest workers in the league.”

  • Wendell Smallwood, the Wilmington native who was drafted by the Eagles last weekend, now calls Smyrna home. As a junior running back at West Virginia last fall, he led the Big 12 in rushing yards.
  • Of the 52 head coaching vacancies in Division I men’s basketball this year, Delaware is now the only school that hasn’t filled its vacancy yet. It’s been 50 days since UD fired coach Monte’ Ross.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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