An Interview With Syvelle Newton

He is one of the true straight-shooters in all of college football. He tells you exactly what is on his mind and he means it. Gamecock Insider had a chance to sit down with Syvelle Newton for a revealing interview that our premium subscribers will not want to miss ...

Syvelle Newton

On the new hair style (Afro) ... his role in breaking the 'long hair' barrier on the team.

"It's really something that all of us guys ... we sat down - we went to Coach Holtz and asked him. We wanted him to know, 'that's just us,' that's what we always are ... we just want to be ourselves some of the time. I mean hair wise, whatever. It really shouldn't matter when it comes to playing football. I mean how many times do you hear the same thing but when you hear it people always say, 'hair should not be important, football should be the most important thing.' Well, we agree. It shouldn't be important when it comes to playing football. We can still play football with long hair or short hair. But it is important when it comes to our lives and how we feel at our age and our generation. So if it is not important and does not affect how we play, let that work both ways. Why not let us wear our hair like other people our age and like players on other teams are allowed to wear their hair? It doesn't seem to affect how LSU, Georgia or Florida players play does it? They all get to wear fashionable hair and they are doing alright. Hair has nothing to do with how you play football. It was time to let us at least have that so we could retain our individuality some. We didn't ask for a lot. It is not a big thing. And Coach Holtz agreed."

On the new mind set of the team - how they seem to be more relaxed and having more fun this year.

"Yeah, I mean there are a lot of reasons for that. For one thing the hair thing. That was big to us. Some guys had good hair in high school and when we got here last year the first thing it felt like was boot camp. This year it feels more like football. Football is a game. You are supposed to have fun playing football, at least that is the way I think about it and the other guys feel that way too. It's a hard game and it takes a lot of work and a lot of commitment, but it is still a game. When it quits being a game is when you get paid for it and none of us look at it that way. We are winners. We want to win. But we want to have fun doing it. The new coaches have helped with that too. I think a couple of the old coaches always felt that way but it was the new coaches that have helped Coach Holtz to understand the part about it being fun and having fun better. Everyone is on the same page now if you now what I mean? When we go out there we work hard and we set our goals high. I mean taking the hair problem out of the mix was big. I think parents can probably understand what I am saying because I ain't no dummy. I know all of us our age want our hair a certain way. Why argue about it because it is not that big of a thing right? So once we got that out of the way we knew things were going to be more fun. It feels good again if you know what I mean. It feels like somebody is paying attention and cares about how we feel about things that are important to us. What's that word? Concessions? It was a little concession that we felt was important because too much was being made of it. We are independent thinkers and that is what makes us have a chance to be better. I don't know if any of this is making sense or not but that's just the way we felt about it. Anyway, things are a lot more fun now. These coaches can drive us hard now and it is still fun. It is more worth it if that makes any sense. I am having a hard time trying to say it where everyone will understand. I know it is hard for older people to understand but maybe that helps. Coach Holtz is letting us have our own personalities, be ourselves, and we appreciate that."

What about the quarterback race?

"Yeah, we're having a good time with it and all. I'm happy being back there for awhile knowing that I'm um, getting back into it and getting the hang of it again. I thought I would be way behind the other quarterbacks right now but actually I'm moving up parallel and beginning to equal-out with all of them. Except I don't know everything that they know about all the plays and some of the things like that, but give me time. I mean I'm happy to be there, but if things kind of go in another direction - then I am ready to make that adjustment, that adjustment will have to be made too."

People say, 'Syvelle Newton will make a great wide receiver in the NFL.' What do you think about that?

"Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of great quarterbacks in college that make better wide receivers in the NFL. Only a handful go to the pros to be a professional quarterback. And with me not being a typical pro-style quarterback, you know ... wide receiver or running back ... you never know. Either of those could be more likely in my future, so I am not ready to say quarterback is going to be something for me. I see Randall Ell and Slash and others like that who were great quarterbacks in high school and then they became quarterbacks in college but they have turned out to be great wide receivers in the pros."

Back to the changes on the team - new coaches, missing players from last year.

"Well, you know, defensively is where I see the most changes going on because the way it looks to me right now, the changes over there with the new schemes brought in by Coach Minter and Coach Cooper and Coach Oliver and all ... and even the safety Coach Reaves ... the things they are doing over there are things that all of us can see are going to work this year because everything is not just plain sitting back and waiting on the ball to come to us. I like that side and the way they are doing new things a lot. But they never really had any personnel problems over there last year - it was all about schemes. On offense we're really not doing anything, too much different. It's really Coach Holtz's offense and whether you've got this coach doing this or that coach doing that it is still going to be run pretty much the same way so ... I guess the big changes over on the offense side of the ball is more in attitude and yeah, that has something to do with some missing players this year I guess but that is all I'll say about that."

On the offensive line so far - depth - and the starting five.

"Well, I mean, the offensive line so far is doing well. I understand because they don't have that many behind them where the starters can get much of a break or a rest, they just keep - every play they are in there. They're not getting any rest out there like other positions because they have no one to rotate in there and give them a break. I mean to me, I think more of them after this because they are working the hardest of anyone right now and they never get to take a break like the rest of us. But I think by summer there will be a better situation for them when it comes to that. I see Coach Shank working on the other guys so that they will be ready by the time summer rolls around."

On weight and strength gains made during the off season.

"Right now I'm weighing like 212 and I'm feeling good with it. I mean like last year I had heel problems and some other problems. Right now I am feeling faster. I feel stronger. I feel good about myself right now and the off season conditioning has helped me there. The weight room has helped me to be more explosive. It's given me a better mentality just knowing that guys bigger than me last year - now I can bring it to them and explode into them where last year there were people hitting me that were better physically conditioned than I was. Most of that was because I was only a freshman last year and I knew that. So I wanted to beef up this year and get faster. Or if not faster at least quicker and in better shape. Last time I timed out I only ran a 4.6 suprisingly, but that was the first time I had run it in awhile. It was indoor on the turf and I wasn't used to it. I know I can run faster than that. Give me the ball on grass in cleats and if you only run a 4.6 you are not going to catch me with a football in my hands. There is something about having a football in my hands that gives me balance and more quickness. I just feel better running with a football in my hands on grass."

On his major and his grades.

"Right now I am majoring in Media Arts because if football does not work out for me I want to go into recording and be a music producer .. which I am doing anyway while I am going to school. I've got a couple of CDs out, not big productions but there are a few copies floating around out there, not really in public but people have them out there. I mean my love is writing songs, so if it does not work out for me on football I am ready to go into music. I like gospel music and ballads. I am not so much into rap and that usually surprises people I guess. Grade wise last semester, my first semester in college - it was a learning experience. I was trying hard but I know I can do better. So I finished with a C average and I wasn't happy with that at all. This semester I am making 3 Bs, 1 A and a C so I am improving and I want to eventually get where I am making all As like I did in high school."

About college life at USC in general in his opinion.

"At first I was kind of unhappy being here because I thought it was going to be different, more of everyone being together, which when I first got here I had a couple of confrontations with a couple of players. Little stuff you know. Little stuff like having the right attitude and keeping things positive and not being a distraction to the team because they were more worried about themselves than the team as a whole. But they are gone now and I am still here. And now I love it here because you would not believe how close some of us have become. I mean it's like with men, sometimes you have to have a good fight in a way before you really learn to respect each other. I mean now I have earned their respect and they have earned my respect. I have really grown to respect the guys on this team now and I mean now if I went to another place I would have missed out on being a part of this and being with these guys so I am real happy I came here now. This is where I was meant to be."

Oh high goals this season.

"I have big goals - but how those goals are going to play out with me being back at quarterback I don't know, I'm not sure. Because I finished last year in a couple of polls or rankings as the 15th or so best upcomming receiver in the country and um ... just being back at quarterback knowing that I might be riding the pine as sort of got me puzzled sometimes."

On the comment made by Syvelle about him saying he would take a redshirt year this year.

"When I said that I was just coming off the field and had heard Coach Holtz tell me that 'You're a quarterback, you're going to be a quarterback and nothing else. Well, just hearing that, hearing Coach Holtz say that sort of intimidates you so whatever he says you just flow with him. Soon as I got in the locker room they (media) came with the question about redshirting .. and now you know where my answer came from. To me I'm really an athlete on the field. I mean I can play safety, I can play cornerback, it really doesn't matter to me I know I can adjust to any position they throw at me because that is the way I was raised ... to be a flexible person and adjust to anything without making it seem like the end of the world to have to ... you know what I mean? And um, me sitting on the bench is not Syvelle and has never been Syvelle ... so I don't think I can settle for that. I need to be on the field playing the game and having fun and contributing to the team. You can't really do that riding the bench you know what I mean?"

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