NEW HAVEN >> Admittedly, public speaking isn’t Arkeel Newsome’s thing.
“Just getting up there and seeing all those faces … it’s tough to do,” he said.
Thanks to the Walter Camp Football Foundation, Connecticut’s all-time leading rusher has had plenty of practice.
Newsome, who amassed what Ansonia coach Tom Brockett called “the greatest career in the history of Connecticut high school football,” collected his third consecutive Walter Camp Connecticut Player of the Year award during the Foundation’s ‘Breakfast of Champions’ Saturday at Anthony’s Ocean View.
Brockett won the Walter Camp Coach of the Year award for guiding Newsome and Ansonia to a third straight state championship and a school-record 43 consecutive victories. The four state champions, Ansonia (S), Southington (LL), New Canaan (L) and St. Joseph, were also honored along with the 22 members of the 2013 Walter Camp All-Connecticut team.
With 3,867 rushing yards and 68 total touchdowns last season, Newsome shattered Connecticut’s career rushing and touchdown records. He finished his career with 10,672 yards, the first Connecticut player to ever crack 10,000 for his career, and 187 touchdowns. He’s committed to play at UConn.
Newsome won the award over a star-studded cast of nominees that included West Haven tailback Ervin Philips, Middletown junior quarterback Dario Highsmith and Southington quarterback Stephen Barmore.
“I personally liked this award better two years ago when I got up to speak about Arkeel Newsome because I knew he was coming back for two more years,” Brockett said. “This is a little tougher here for the last time.”
Newsome’s playmaking abilities were a cinch compared to his anxiety about making speeches. But he felt more at ease this time around, even in front of a packed house that included former Walter Camp All-Americans and NFL veterans David Fulcher (Arizona State), Tim Worley (Georgia) and Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams (Grambling).
Newsome’s speech was short and sweet. He thanked God, his teammates, coaches, family, friends and his strength coach “for their continued support throughout this whole thing.”
“I’m definitely getting used to it now,” he said afterward. “I was pretty proud of this one.”
Instead, it was Brockett who seemed to be at a loss for words when he accepted his coach of the year award, beating out Southington’s Mike Drury and New Canaan’s Lou Marinelli.
After thanking his players, assistants and mentors for their support, the 36-year-old coach became emotional when he started to thank his family.
Nearly two years ago, complications at birth put Brockett’s son Michael’s short life in doubt, and the ordeal caused Brockett to consider stepping away from coaching.
“To have my kids here with me … my son, Michael … we went through a tough time with him,” he said, tearfully. “And to have him sitting with me, and my daughter, Alyssa, means more to me than anything.
“I’ve been coach of the year once. But my wife (Nicole) has been wife of the year every year I’ve coached.”
Newsome and Ansonia were later honored at the All-American banquet with the Joseph W. Kelly Award as the state’s top team.
Westhill senior Evan Skoparantzos, who survived a serious bout with cancer when he was 5, won the Generation UCAN Inspire Award.
West Haven’s Ed McCarthy earned a special recognition award for becoming the state’s all-time winningest coach last season. He has won 326 games in 43 years.
“There have certainly been guys who have won more games than I and have made more money than I, but nobody has had more laughs than me,” he said.
Jim Buonocore, who won four state titles and was 209-94-8 at New London, was honored with the Walter Camp Lifetime Achievement Award.