A conversation with Mike Newkirk

The Ladysmith (Wis.) High School star, who verbally committed to Wisconsin last March, took his official visit Dec. 5-7. Badger Nation caught up with Newkirk to discuss his senior season, the honors he earned and his plans heading into his career as a Badger

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Mike Newkirk was a consensus first-team all-state selection as a running back and was named the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Offensive Player of the Year. A fullback for the Lumberjacks, Newkirk ran for 2,628 yards and 32 touchdowns this season. He also earned first-team all-state honors as a defensive lineman from the WFCA and was a second-team defensive selection by the Associated Press and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


Ladysmith won a conference title and reached the WIAA Division 5 state semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Brillion 14-7. The Lumberjacks final drive, with a chance to potentially tie the game, was stopped at the Brillion three-yard line. Ladysmith finished the season 12-1.


On his official visit last weekend, Newkirk's host was freshman strongside defensive end Joe Monty.


Badger Nation: First, congratulations on all of the honors you received this season.


Mike Newkirk: "Thank you very much."


BN: How did that feel, the all-state recognition and earning offensive player of the year?


MN: "It felt well. But in return I would have gave it all back if I could have got one more game. To be down at state and to share those things with your teammates and other people is a lot more enjoying and fulfilling than just individual honors."


BN: Ladysmith had a fantastic season and I'm sure with the way the season ended there are a range of emotions. But when you look back are you pretty proud of how the season went?


MN: "Yeah, we have a lot to be proud about. At the time and for a while after it is hard to see those things because all you can look at is that you failed, you feel like you failed because you came up a game short and we didn't really get to where we wanted to. So then it is kind of hard not to look at the whole year as a  failure and because that's really how you feel for while. But then once you let things settle down and the emotions get back to normal and you look back—we had a lot of great accomplishments this season. We were the best team that our high school had ever seen. Nobody had ever gone that far, nobody had ever posted a record like that in our school history.


"I had an outstanding season and that is something that my line can take pride in. And other people on my team knowing that it wasn't just an individual thing, even though that is the way it's posted in the papers, that it really was a group effort and that none of us could have done it alone—that we all needed each other to do it. It is something that in year's to come we can all take pride in and look back on and have some laughs. And enjoy the season that we did have because it was a great season. It was a great time sharing it with the guys. We had that big win over Barron (34-27, to move to 7-0) that was exciting at the end. We won conference, which was a big deal for us. So, we did have a lot of positive points to our season."


BN: Did you watch the state title game, or was that too hard to do at the time?


MN: "I didn't watch it. I didn't really want to at that time."


BN: What is next for you Mike, do you have other sports that you participate in during the year?


MN: "Yes sir, I'm in my wrestling season right now. Then I also participate in track in the spring. I throw shot put and discus."


BN: How have you fared at your other two sports in your high school career?


MN: "I've done pretty well in wrestling. I was the state champion last year. I won state at heavyweight last year. I have a pretty good overall record, only eight losses on my career….my record right now is 121-8. I went undefeated last year."


BN: What about on the track field?


MN: "In track I took second in shot put last year at state and I took sixth in the discuss. I hold both the records at our school."


BN: Are you still in pretty frequent contact with the coaches at Wisconsin?


MN: "Yes sir. I just actually came back from my official visit (Dec. 5-7). I was there at the awards banquet. They took us to practice on Friday, we watched a little bit of practice on Saturday before we had to go to some presentations that were set up."


BN: What were the presentations about?


MN: "One was an academic presentation by the athletic-academic staff there. We had another presentation by the strength and conditioning coach (John Dettman)."


BN: Just kind of giving you a little orientation?


MN: "Yeah, a little bit, just kind of showing us what it was like and showing us around a little bit."

BN: Did Joe Monty show you around?


MN: "Yeah, we had a real good time. He is a great guy. Things like that you look forward to every night are having guys like that on your team. I really enjoyed it."


BN: Is defensive end the position you are expecting to play when you come to Wisconsin?


MN: "Yes sir. I'm not sure if it's the same side (as Monty) but defensive end is the position."


BN: Is that the position that you have always wanted to play? Obviously you are pretty good on offense as well.


MN: "I play fullback on offense but at the college level they tend to not use fullbacks as much and I think defensive end is my best chance at playing and maybe going on further, but anywhere that I could play would be a great honor."


BN: You received acclaim for your exploits on the defensive side of the ball too but did you find it flattering that despite the fact that you look at defense as your best chance at the next level that you played so well on offense and received those awards after the season?


MN: "I thought that it was a great honor for me but more then that for our linemen because I have some real close friends on the line. We worked hard this summer. We had kind of a little thing to us. We said that ‘it was all about pride.' That was kind of like our quote for the summer. And we worked hard. It was good to see that finally paid off. That was the way we wanted to go out."


BN: Were you at all surprised by just how successful you and your line were running the football?


MN: "Yeah, I was. You know, to be named the offensive player of the year is really a great honor, really something special. We just went out there every Friday and gave it our best. And then we let the chips fall where they may and let everything work itself out. But when we went out there we just wanted to make sure that everything we had we left on the field because we knew that this year was our last dance. We would never play together again, or that some of us might not play football ever again period. So we wanted to make the best of it."


BN: Was it a mostly senior team?


MN: "Yes, sir."


BN: Your starting offensive line, how many of them were seniors?


MN: "All of them were."


BN: We hear all about the rushing yards and the touchdowns, but what were your statistics defensively?


MN: "Defensively—I'm not sure of the actual statistics. To be honest I really don't pay attention to much of that. The only statistics we paid attention to was whether it went in the ‘W' column or the ‘L' column."


BN: Do you have a plan in mind for getting ready for the Wisconsin football team in the fall?


MN: "I'm planning on this summer, after I graduate to go down right away and participate in an eight-week summer program that they have. Most of the players stay there in the summer and work out with Mr. Dettman, the strength and conditioning coach down there. He has an eight-week program to get them ready for the season. So I'm going to go down early and participate in that, try to get as ready as I possibly can before the season."


BN: Do you feel that wrestling and track will help lead into that?


MN: "Yeah, wrestling is the hardest sport there is. It definitely keeps you in shape."


BN: Do you have any expectations as far as whether or not you are going to redshirt?


MN: "Not really. I just try to keep an open mind about it. That will be judged on my performance when I get down there. So if they think that I'm good enough to play and not be redshirted—that they can use me—that will be a definite honor. And if I can go help the team I'm going to help in any way that I possibly can. But then if they redshirt me that has its upsides too. It will give me a year to grow, another year to be in the program, to learn the defensive schemes, things like that—maybe be a little bit more prepared. Either way that is totally up to them. Whatever they choose is what I'm going to do."

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