After success playing football with the Vacaville Bulldogs in high school and the Washington Huskies in college, defensive back Vince Newsome was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1983.
Newsome noted several differences between the pros and his collegiate gridiron experiences besides the paychecks. They included the vastly accelerated velocity of the game, the size of the players and that it was more mental than physical at that level and required intensive studying.
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“I went to a team that was loaded with talent,” Newsome said. “John Robinson had just became the head coach after being at USC and we had a lot of superstars like Eric Dickerson, Nolan Cromwell, Jack Youngblood, Jackie Slater and later Kevin Green and others. I played with a lot of players who would wind up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Because of the depth in the Rams’ roster, Newsome was not thrown immediately into the fire, but given time to learn how to become a pro.
“I competed against myself. I had this adage, ‘To stay a champion, you have to think like a challenger.’ So I never took for granted that I was in the NFL or that I was going to stay there,” Newsome said. “I had to improve each year and keep that ‘I’m a challenger’ perspective in my mental and physical conditioning.”
In addition to playing with some of the biggest names in the history of the NFL, Newsome played against many as well. They include Walter Payton, Tony Dorsett, Earl Campbell, Ken Stabler, Dan Marino, Warren Moon, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, among others.
The Rams went 11-5 in 1985 and made it to the Conference championship game. Unfortunately, they ran into the defensive juggernaut that was the Chicago Bears. Like the Bears, who made a popular rap video starring the team called “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” the Rams released “Let’s Ram It” (bit.ly/LETSRAMIT) which . . . has not aged well.
“That video needs to be burned. I’m just glad I’m not in it,” Newsome said.
Plan B Free Agency began in the NFL in 1990 and Newsome visited a few other teams and decided to join the Cleveland Browns.
“In Los Angeles you’d better be winning or fans have other things to do. When I went to Cleveland, you didn’t have to be one of the superstars, you just had to be one of the players and everybody wanted to touch you. They embraced the entire team,” Newsome said.
At that time, Bill Belichick was head coach and Nick Saban was the defensive coordinator. Newsome felt like he had to prove himself all over again as he played with several big names like Clay Matthews, Michael Dean Perry, Bernie Kosar and Kevin Mack, among others.
In 1992, after a 10-year career in the NFL, Vince Newsome hung up his cleats for good and retired.
Almost as soon as he left the field, he joined the front office. The Browns allowed Newsome to coach in mini-camps to get a taste of what it was like. But he was nudged toward the personnel side.
“I was approached by one of Cleveland’s top personnel guys and he suggested I follow the path of Ozzie Newsome (no relation) who was then the Director of Pro Personnel and who he predicted would be a general manager one day,” Newsome said. “Now, I knew Ozzie because I played against him and I thought ‘he’s going to be a GM?’ But I gave it some thought and went to the personnel side.”
After the 1995 season, the Browns franchise ceased to be – until it was resurrected as an expansion team four years later when owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore and they became the Ravens. Ozzie Newsome did become the GM and Vince Newsome became the Assistant Director of Pro Personnel, then the Director of Pro Personnel and is now the Senior Personnel Executive.
Newsome is glad he had coaches like the late Tom Zunino at Vacaville High School who encouraged him to stick with it when he wanted to quit. His football resume continues to grow to this day.
“To me the pinnacle was having the relationships and camaraderie with teammates when I was playing, but helping to build a team that wins a Super Bowl is immensely gratifying and we’ve done it twice,” Newsome said. “Your roster changes every year so it’s difficult to get the players to come together to where you’re hitting your sweet spot at the right time. But I would still rather play.”