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Timmy Newsome: Working through the gridiron

Working hard on and off the field has paid off for this teacher’s son

When Timmy Newsome played for the Dallas Cowboys and his NFL season ended, he didn’t just kick back and relax.  Instead, he got a summer job as a computer programmer.

The Winston-Salem State University graduate learned early on the value of education and planning.  Plus, he knew his football career would be of limited duration no matter how successful he was on the field.  

“I set out to find a job in the off-season, which a lot of players did back then when the money wasn’t as great as today,” said Newsome, now a successful Dallas businessman. “I had always been very education-focused because I didn’t think professional football was going to be my primary vocation coming out of college.”

In the early 1980s, players could not bank on their earnings lasting a lifetime. But Newsome was prepared.  Even today, he credits his collegiate student-athlete experience for preparing him for life after football.

Timmy Newsome, Dallas Cowboys

Newsome was raised in Ahoskie, North Carolina, where his father was a self-employed farmer and a mechanic.  This gave the future football standout a chance to see the ups and downs of working for yourself.  He knew the insight and knowledge he learned from those days would eventually pay off once his NFL career ended.

His appreciation for education came from his mother, who was a school teacher.

Coming out of high school, Newsome was poised to do great things on the football field at Winston-Salem. He had been part of a successful high school football program that also produced two other future NFL players: Bobby Futrell (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Sam Harrell (Minnesota Vikings). Newsome played defensive back his senior year when the team went 13-0 before losing in the state championship game.

In college, he changed positions and became a standout running back. But for Newsome, who at that time had no idea he might one day play professional football, gaining an education was his focus.

“The biggest mistake kids make is to assume their prime directive is to play professional sports,” he said. “Their primary objective should be to major in the best possible educational environment they can, to position themselves for life.”

“If they should be fortunate enough to play in professional sports, consider that gravy.”

Emerging as a force at running back, Newsome helped lead the Winston-Salem State Rams to back-to-back undefeated seasons in 1977 and 1978. Before graduating, Newsome became the No. 2 rusher in the school’s history.

Playing for legendary coach Bill Hayes, Newsome said hard work, being organized and not overlooking the small details were but a few of the lessons he learned then and still uses today.  

Working hard also applied in the classroom. Majoring in business administration with a minor in computer science, he planned to attend graduate school, or at least a business school. But in 1980 the NFL called when he was drafted in the sixth round by the Dallas Cowboys.

In college Newsome was rarely asked to block or catch passes, but that’s exactly what he did often for the Cowboys, earning the respect of his fellow players and fans, and from his coach, Tom Landry. Newsome played for the Cowboys during a period when running backs Tony Dorsett and then Herschel Walker were building their impressive resumes.

“Coach Landry taught me a lot. He was trained as an engineer, and he applied that to sports,” said Newsome. “He would say OK, what are the goals? What are we trying to achieve? He would break it down and talk about the whole philosophy. From there, he would delve into the plays and the strategies.

“Not only was he talking about aspects of the sport itself, he would talk about the preparation you needed to do in order to be successful. He was very organized, very structured and very methodical in the things he brought to the table.” And Newsome paid attention.

That is why Newsome knew that he couldn’t waste his summers. He jumped into a second career in the off-seasons, working as a computer programmer writing software for the wholesale and distribution industry.

After retiring from the Cowboys, Newsome did contract work for nearly two years before starting his own business, Newtec, in 1991.  He runs the steadily growing company from his Dallas home.

As a computer programmer analyst, he develops banking applications focused on middleware  for automated teller machines and creates voter-registration applications enabling those applications to migrate from one computer platform to another.

His company is successful, he said, because he spends time at the “whiteboard,” planning the future, responding to challenges and finding ways to overcome obstacles – the  kind of lessons he learned at Winston-Salem State.

Newsome describes it this way: While he got the necessary academic skills in the classroom – which would make anyone a fine worker – he learned how to run a business on the playing field.

“I would not have learned those skills in the basic classroom setting. In an academic setting, they only teach you academics. They don’t necessarily move into the psychology of trying to navigate the different nuances of being in business,” he said. “Most people, when they go into business, there is some training ground or a pecking order they have to adhere to before they get to where they are trying to go. For me, I use sports as a metaphor for what I do in business because they are so uniquely intertwined. I can take the sports part out and apply the lessons and psychology on how things should happen.”

Just as the whiteboard was used in the locker room to sketch out the next play, Newsome uses his company’s whiteboard to plan his organization’s next six weeks, six months, six years.

“I try to visualize what my future holds if I do the preparation on a continuing basis,” he said. “It’s very difficult to separate the lessons that I learned in sports and try to do something different in business. They are so uniquely entwined.

“The psychology of business is not unlike the psychology of sports.”

Newsome has remained in Dallas and actively participates in local community groups that are focused on education.

“One of the things that keep me humble is that I have an opportunity to go out in the community and give back,” he said. “The sport gave a lot to me.  If I can somehow put a sparkle in a child’s eyes because I walk into the room or speak to them, then that makes not only my day, but theirs too.”