It was almost preordained that Dazz Newsome would play football.
His dad, Myron Newsome, played at Hampton High School in Hampton, Virginia, and at Virginia Tech in 1995 and 1996. His older brother, Deon Newsome, played at Hampton and at Virginia Tech from 2013-17. Myron coached with the Hampton program for a while, and his boys were always hanging around practice.
“Since he could walk,” longtime Hampton coach Mike Smith told Shaw Local. “When he was 4 or 5 years old, he would take part with the big guys during conditioning.”
There’s a winning tradition at Hampton and Smith has been a part of it as long as anyone. He became the head coach in 1971 and has won 12 state championships. Mention the Chicago Bears to Smith and he’ll drop names from the Hampton area that go way back: Shaun Gayle played at rival Bethel High School (and for the Bears from 1984-1994) and Bennie McRae went to the now closed Huntington High School (and played for the Bears from 1962-1970).
Closer to Dazz Newsome’s contemporary is former Hampton star Tyrod Taylor, who played at Virginia Tech and is now in the NFL. Newsome grew up watching Taylor and awaiting his turn to wear a Crabbers uniform.
“I’ve been the water boy since I was like 6 years old, up until I was in seventh grade,” Newsome said. “I remember when I first got on the sidelines, Tyrod Taylor, he was at high school, and we were just seeing all them players, and seeing my brother. It was a bunch of great players that came through my city.”
There’s stories of young Dazz Newsome sleeping in his football jersey before games. Football was his life. When he reached high school, it didn’t matter where he played – offense, defense, special teams – he succeeded in every role.
He has the personality to match the talent, too. Smith liked to call him “Dazzling Dazz.”
“What can I say? Dazz is Dazz,” Smith said. “He’s a neat guy. He doesn’t get frustrated. He works hard.”
‘Tough as all get out’
The 22-year-old sixth-round draft pick is learning about Chicago. For instance, there’s no Waffle Houses. That was news to him. There are beaches, which he didn’t know the Midwest had.
During a recent Zoom session with the media, he asked each media member to recommend a spot to eat around Chicago.
“Dazz is a typical 22-year-old kid that likes to have fun,” North Carolina receivers coach Lonnie Galloway said.
During rookie minicamp this month, Newsome showcased an early connection with first-round draft pick Justin Fields. The quarterback and receiver were already on the same page. The Bears hope to see more of that next week when OTAs begin.
Galloway’s advice to Newsome was this: Find Fields and do what he does. Newsome appeared to be following that advice in minicamp, when he started each day stretching near the quarterback.
“I would get in his pocket and stay in his pocket, and know [the offense] like he knows it,” Galloway said.
Newsome is joining a crowded Bears wide receiver room. Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney are the clear No. 1 and No. 2 options. Beyond that, Anthony Miller, Damiere Byrd, Marquise Goodwin, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley and Newsome will all be battling for roster spots.
It’s an uphill battle for the rookie, but he’s been battling for a long time. That’s what he did at North Carolina, where he was never the No. 1 option, instead playing second fiddle to Dyami Brown. Bears general manager Ryan Pace kept spotting Newsome as he was studying film of Brown.
“He’s tough as all get out,” Bears receivers coach Mike Furrey said. “He’s dynamic with that ball. He’s got a running back mentality when he gets the ball in his hands.”
‘Get on the field any way possible’
Smith still remembers a one-handed interception Newsome pulled in. He remembers a 105-yard kickoff return touchdown. Smith has seen literally thousands of players come through the Hampton program over 50 years. Newsome is “in the upper echelon.”
“Dazz would be a fix for so many things on the team,” Smith said. “With football, mental and physical toughness is viable and he’s got both of ’em.”
Newsome’s versatility made him an interesting recruit. According to 247Sports, he was considered an athlete, rather than a receiver or a defensive back. He impressed college coaches with his ability to shut down top receivers at camps.
Smith remembers one game against rival Bethel, which is a 10-to-15 minute drive from Hampton and in the same school district. Bethel’s top receiver was Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, a linebacker who the Cleveland Browns selected in the second round of the draft last month.
“He was a better receiver than he was a linebacker at that time,” Smith said. “The night we played them, I played Dazz man-to-man on him and zoned everything else. He actually had one catch but he should’ve been called for offensive pass interference. Dazz closed him down.”
Newsome scored 35 touchdowns as a senior – 28 rushing, three receiving, two on punt returns and two on interceptions. He was everywhere.
At North Carolina, with Brown lining up outside, Newsome blossomed in the slot. He surpassed 1,000 receiving yards with 10 touchdowns in 2019 as a junior. Even at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, he wasn’t afraid to put his body on the line over the middle of the field.
In the Bears’ ideal scenario, Newsome will continue to develop those slot skills at the NFL level and prove a worthy return man on special teams. With the Tar Heels, he averaged 11.1 yards per punt return on 48 returns.
“Back there you’ve got to be halfway crazy to want to catch the punt with people barring down on you,” Galloway said. “But Dazz is shifty, quick.”
Newsome was a jack-of-all-trades for Smith at Hampton. The Bears are hoping he can be the same for them.
“My mentality is really just come in and do my job and try to get a job, honestly,” Newsome said. “And try to make sure I get on that field any way possible, whether it’s kickoff, whether it’s kick return, whether it’s punt team gunner or whether it’s punt return or receiver.”