UW Roster Review, No. 2-99: Newton Works Way Back into Good Graces

The UW running back could be on the verge of a big season for him.

Richard Newton wears Sonny Sixkiller's sacred University of Washington jersey No. 6, which in many ways makes a lot of sense.

Fifty years apart, both are considered exceptional Husky football players, displaying high-level skills beginning in their second seasons in the program.

Each one became well known to the fan base, Sixkiller more so with his stoic face landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated and elsewhere, to the point these two had to learn how to deal with their newfound celebrityhood.

In fact, Newton might have let fame give him a false sense of security over who he is and get in the way of his Husky football career some, something that Sixkiller was careful to avoid.

The 6-foot, 215-pound junior running back from Lancaster, California, who is a mixture of power and speed in what he does, appears to have worked his way through those complications, though it seems we heard him get admonished at least once this spring for not taking a drill seriously.

As practice recently came to a close, UW coach Jimmy Lake, who sat Newton down for two of the four pandemic football games last fall, pronounced everything all good for him, without going into detail about his past.

"All I know is now where he's at is the best version of Richard Newton that I've seen," Lake said. "He's in shape. He's dialed in. He knows protections. He knows where to run the football. He's running hard. I'm extremely excited for him."

All anyone needed to see to verify all of this was Newton's punishing 15-yard touchdown run in the spring game, where he resembled a man charging through boys while navigating his way to the end zone.

Going down the roster in numerical order, this is another of our post-spring assessments of all of the Husky talent at hand, gleaned from a month of observations, as a way to keep everyone engaged during the offseason.

Newton brings star quality to a pro-style offense many UW fans have derided as being too basic and too bland, preferring more of a wide-open aerial approach.

Lake, however, wore that infamous hat last year that said, "Run the Damn Ball," and if he can keep Newton headed in the right direction he might win over all of those amateur offensive coordinators seated in front of their TVs or sitting socially distanced in the stands.

Newton is the guy who scored 11 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in his first season for the Huskies, all without starting a game in 2019. He had a knack for coming up with the big play in his limited minutes.

Last season, he was trotted out in the preseason in front of the media on a Zoom call and put on the Doak Walker Award watch list, all of which meant he was expected to be a major contributor for the Huskies.

Yet once the season began, Newton came third off the bench, playing behind seniors and starters Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant, which seemed to suggest he hadn't fulfilled all of responsibilities along the way.

Following a two-touchdown performance against Arizona, which included a 54-yard breakaway scoring run, Newton dressed but didn't stir from the Husky bench in games where he was needed.

Again, it's still not clear if he was insubordinate or not. Lake and the Huskies have a clear history of not putting up with any pushback from a player, regardless of how talented he might be, with an overly obstinate Marcus Peters coming to mind.

Newton appears to have taken a serious approach to his conditioning, adding bulk while running even faster, according to his coach. 

If he can stay on the right side of everyone, and turn in a full season as a prominent rusher, the NFL won't let him finish up his college eligibility.

"I'm extremely excited for him," Lake said. "He's already had a breakout year, but I'm really excited for him to have his best season yet as a Husky." 

2021 Outlook: Projected running-back starter

UW Service Time: Played in 12 games, no starts

Career Stats: 140 carries for 620 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing, 3 receptions for 23 yards and a score, threw a 13-yard TD pass in the 2019 Las Vegas Bowl

Individual Honors: Not yet

Pro prospects: 2023 NFL second-round draft pick

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