Terence Newman has led a long and successful career since the Dallas Cowboys selected the former Kansas State defensive back with the No. 5 overall selection during the 2003 NFL draft.
His 15-year career features numerous highlights including a pair of Pro Bowl selections in 2007 and 2009 as well as eight postseason appearances. But Newman, now 39 years old and potentially playing in his final professional football season, has become much more than simply a lightning-fast, cerebral cornerback.
Determining the value players bring to the table beyond the box score is essentially immeasurable. And while there are not statistics available to quantify how critical his leadership has been to a young and hungry Minnesota Vikings defense since joining the organization through free agency ahead of the 2015 season, it is difficult to argue that the ageless Newman is anything less than invaluable to Mike Zimmer’s ever-improving, championship-caliber defense.
Newman and Zimmer originally joined forces in the NFL back in 2003. Zimmer, who at the time was plugged in as the defensive coordinator on Bill Parcells’ staff, immediately found ways to utilize Newman within the Cowboys defense upon acquiring the talented cornerback through the draft.
His 4.37 speed was evident from the moment he stepped on the field, as Newman showed a capacity to run step-for-step with essentially every receiver in professional football. As with any rookie cornerback, however, Newman experienced his fair share of growing pains as a rookie, but his impact as a first-year player was undeniable.
He totaled 76 combined tackles, four interceptions and one of his two career sacks over the course of 16 starts, firmly entrenching his talent and positive intangible traits in the mind of the former Cowboys’ defensive coordinator and now head coach of the Vikings.
Newman found consistent success over the course of his tenure in Dallas, proving that his talent was not dependent on Parcells and Zimmer when the pairing departed from the Cowboys organization following the 2006 season.
And while two of Newman’s finest seasons in professional football came during a three-year stint under defensive guru Wade Phillips, the ageless defensive back seemingly never forgot about the now-Vikings head coach that played a vital role in his development.
He was released by Dallas following a disappointing 2011 campaign but quickly found a new home in Cincinnati alongside Zimmer once again. He quickly re-established himself as a dynamic and well-rounded playmaker on the back end of the Bengals defense, earning himself a more lucrative second contract with the organization ahead of the 2012 season.
He totaled 127 combined tackles, four interceptions, 24 pass defenses and one of his four career touchdowns across 28 games with Zimmer in Cincinnati, proving that he was still more than capable of producing results despite playing in his mid-30s at this point in his career.
And when Zimmer departed for Minnesota following the 2013 NFL season, Newman was relatively quick to follow. He played out his contract without Zimmer in Cincinnati before ultimately signing a 1-year, $2.5 million deal with the Vikings on March 26, 2015.
Newman’s role has changed multiple times since agreeing to terms in Minnesota, receiving snaps at outside cornerback, nickel cornerback and safety across 45 games (and counting) in Minnesota. While his on-field impact has been impressive — especially relative to his age — it quite likely is his calm, confident demeanor that has paid the greatest dividends for the Vikings thus far.
He is one of the most critical components of a highly competitive and goal-oriented locker room, sharing experience and knowledge with an extremely talented trio of young cornerbacks in Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander.
Newman embodies the spirit and tough-love mentality of Zimmer, proving time and time again that the latter’s decision to offer the former a position on his staff at the conclusion of his playing career was a no-brainer.
Minnesota, now officially champions of the NFC North, accomplished the first goal on its docket against Cincinnati last weekend, but with a (very) slight chance to edge out the Philadelphia Eagles for the No. 1 seed and two divisional matchups against the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears in the coming weeks, Newman’s motivational voice will be critical to keeping the Vikings level-headed and focused.
His on-field role will likely continue to change on a week-by-week basis given the rapid development of both Alexander and Waynes this season, but his sideline presence alone has made him a definitive asset to a team with a boatload of inexperienced athletes.
His best playing days are likely in the past, but the ageless Newman still has plenty to offer to a Vikings team and fanbase starving for a championship title.
“Age is just a number. It’s totally irrelevant unless you happen to be a bottle of wine.”
Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.
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