If you attended a Petal Panthers football game in 2019, you will know that the Panthers are full of talent. Defensively, they produced one of the most dominating defensive performances in years when they defeated Biloxi, allowing 22 yards, one first down, and zero points.
Dominate is what Petal did throughout 2019, and one name that not only stood out for Petal but across the Impact coverage area was a senior linebacker, Ja’Korian Newsome. Newsome’s sure tackling ability led him to the Sports601 Defensive Player of the Year for Forrest, Lamar, and Covington County area in 2019.
“Ja’Korian has started for us for three years. He’s a great football player but an even greater person. He has come to practice and worked extremely hard to be where he is,” said Petal head coach Marcus Boyles.
Newsome compiled 298 tackles over his career with 143 of them coming in 2019. Averaging 7.8 tackles per game is no easy feat, and Boyles made sure to point out that it is one of the things that has made the linebacker great.
“The two biggest things that stand out to me about Ja’Korian is his tackling ability. He is a great tackler. He just does not miss a lot of tackles. His overall speed is deceiving. He can run sideline-to-sideline, and those things coincide,” explained Boyles.
Throughout 2019, Newsome averaged 10.2 tackles per game. Against Laurel, Newsome had 20 total tackles and followed it up one week later with a 21 tackle performance against Pearl. The senior linebacker had seven games where he totaled double-digit tackles. Boyles credits that to his instincts.
“He has great instincts. He’s always around the football and he did not get fooled very often. He is a guy that you know is a sure tackler. He stays in the film room and studies the game tremendously. That’s the type of young man he is.”
Newsome caused five fumbles in 2019 and garnered two sacks. One of those sacks came against Brandon in crunch time which gave the ball back to the Panther offense so they could drive the field and score. On his career, he totaled 10 forced fumbles and had six sacks.
“Ja’Korian isn’t a real vocal leader. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t lead. He leads by example. That’s just his personality though. He’s not a real outspoken person, so we didn’t try to make him something that he’s not. He leads by example, but when he did have something to say, people listened,” said Boyles.
The senior credits his coaches and doing the little things to make big things possible.
“Growing up in this community and Petal fieldhouse the coaches always tell us to do the little things right. Doing those little things right allowed me to get on the field and be all over the field. So, just doing the little things led to big things. My coaches mean so much to me. They are some of the most inspirational people that I’ve ever been around. They push me and everyone else to do those little things right, and do everything we can to our fullest, ” said Newsome.
While there are many memorable moments for Newsome, some of his best memories are with his teammates and the bonds he made with them over his time as a Petal linebacker.
“Over the years I started quiet, not talking to anyone. But I started forming a bond with my teammates and over the past couple of years, they grew into brothers. That’s the most memorable thing for me. Being able to form that bond with them and getting closer to them than I ever was throughout the season.”
Newsome’s athletic career is far from over though, as he has several offers from JUCO teams and Division-1 schools Arkansas State, South Alabama, and Louisiana-Monroe.