Perkinston, Miss.--Originally committing to the Auburn Tigers in June of 2015, Daquan Newkirk failed to academically qualify out of The First Academy in Orlando and instead of signing with Gus Malzahn’s program he decided to get a head start on his junior college career. Now over a year into his stay at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College after beginning classes there last January, Newkirk is still focused on being a Tiger and can’t wait to get on the Plains.
“They stuck with me through the whole process and they didn’t have to do that,” Newkirk said. “That meant a lot to me. I’m going to keep my word to them. I guess Coach Scott Fountain isn’t working there any more and he was my recruiter. I don’t know who’s going to take his place (as his recruiting coach), but I’m looking forward to it.”
The key for Auburn is that Coach Rodney Garner is still on the Plains and coaching the defensive line. A player capable of playing outside at end, but with the size to potentially move inside, Newkirk said having that familiar face at Auburn is big for him.
“That’s very important,” Newkirk said. “If he wasn’t there then I probably wouldn’t go to Auburn. I’m very versatile so whatever he wants me to play I’ll play.”
Sitting out last season for the Bulldogs, Newkirk is headed into his redshirt freshman year for MGCCC and is excited to show the world how much improvement he’s made in his game and in his body. Now 6-3, 280 but keeping the quickness and explosion that made him a big target for Auburn when he originally committed, Newkirk noted he is eager to get back on the football field.
“I’m looking forward to it a lot,” he said. “I can’t wait until spring starts. I can’t wait until we get in pads. I can’t wait until guys come see me play. I can’t wait to show my talent.”
His weight has been an issue in the last year, getting up to as much as 312 pounds after having shoulder surgery last fall. Working hard to get back down to 280 has been a focus for him and it has paid off in his conditioning. Despite some soreness in his knee, Newkirk said he ran a 40-yard dash time of 4.76 seconds the last time they ran but he believes he can go even faster.
That time away from football wasn’t easy for Newkirk. Redshirting is seldom something a player expects, but to do it so far away from friends and family and in a very small town in Mississippi made it challenging.
“It was tough,” Newkirk said. “I had a couple of times when I didn’t even want to come out of my dorm. It was tough for me because it was my first year without football.
“It made me realize how much I wanted to succeed,” he added. “I had to lose the weight and it made me work even harder.”
Still on target for his goal of getting to Auburn in December, Newkirk said he isexcited about finally getting to the Plains.
“It’s all about the family,” Newkirk said. “They brought me in and never looked back. I have a whole bunch of teammates and people I know that were with me through the whole process.
“It just feels awesome knowing I have somewhere to go once this Gulf Coast trip is over with.”