football Edit

Fueled By Yelaina, Newsome Primed For Big Season

Dazz Newsome has plenty of motivation and reason for optimism heading into his junior campaign with the Tar Heels.
Dazz Newsome has plenty of motivation and reason for optimism heading into his junior campaign with the Tar Heels. (USA Today)

CHAPEL HILL – There was something different about Dazz Newsome this spring.

It wasn’t subtle, either.

He’s still super fast. Blazing fast, to be accurate. He’s still a pass catcher and punt returner capable of darting into the end zone any time he touches the ball from anywhere on the field. He’s still going to get touches on some reverses, jet sweeps and maybe a couple of option pitches.

He still wears No. 19 and is a North Carolina Tar Heel.

Dazz Newsome is still Dazz Newsome.

What’s different, however, is that Newsome is not only now a father, but if you don’t know his daughter’s name, just look on his neck. Straight ahead, and it’s right there: “Yelaina.”

She’s not only an inspiration for the Hampton, VA, junior, but a driving force behind his heightened dedication to becoming the best football player he can.

“Definitely. It made me ball harder, made me grind harder,” Newsome said.

Yelaina is nine months old and lives in Virginia, though she makes frequent trips to Chapel Hill to see her daddy. But even when she returns to the Commonwealth, she remains in her father’s heart and soul. And the reminder clearly visible every time he looks in the mirror, his motivation not exactly worn on his sleeve, but literally his neck, serves a purpose.

Newsome with his daughter's name across his neck.
Newsome with his daughter's name across his neck. (THI)

It took Newsome approximately three hours to get the tattoo done, and it was rather painful.

“It was numb after how long he was doing it,” Newsome said. “(It took) a whole basketball game. We watched the warmups to the end.”

Three hours is about how long most college football games last, and during that period on a given Saturday, Newsome is highly capable of putting on a show that would make his little girl and many others proud.

He caught 44 passes for 506 yards and two touchdowns last season in an offense that was challenged by its own limitations. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound speedster also ran the ball seven times for 96 yards and a score, returned six kickoffs for an average of 20.8 yards and returned 19 punts for an average of 15.1 yards and a touchdown. Newsome even completed a pass for 43 yards and was one of just seven players in the nation to score touchdowns running, receiving and on a punt return.

Now in the air raid offense ushered in by UNC’s new staff, Newsome is primed to post even more impressive numbers. The new offense is fast, really fast, and the Tar Heels will throw long, something that could favor Newsome in one-on-one matchups.

“I like how fast it is, how quick we move, how much we throw the ball, how much we run the ball, it’s very diverse,” Newsome said. “It’s really hard to stop.”

Newsome at Virginia last fall.
Newsome at Virginia last fall. (Jenna Miller, THI)

For players with Newsome’s natural gifts, an offense like air raid feeds into their greatest attributes, which excites him.

“It’s definitely quicker (and) it has more space,” he said. “We’ve got more freedom as in what we had last year.”

Quicker?

“Tempo-wise,” Newsome replied. “That really helps us because the defense can be all discombobulated, it gives us a chance to hit more big plays.”

Big plays were once commonplace for the Tar Heels but became nearly extinct the last couple of seasons. Yet, with a trio of quarterbacks Newsome says can make all of the throws, including downfield, and an approach designed to significantly stress opposing defenses, the onus on the receivers is to simply make things happen.

“You just really find the space in this offense,” he said.

Newsome’s speed, quickness, vision and instincts are still the same, but with an added incentive to excel, he may find those spots to make things happen at a higher clip than before.

His fuel is a bundle of joy named Yelaina, and in case you ever forget her name, just look at Newsome. It’s right there right in front in big bold ink: “Yelaina.”