by John Unrein
Being a college freshman on a new campus can be full of trepidation. A typical eighteen or nineteen year old may ask themselves, “How will I react being away from home?” or “Will I meet people that can become my friends?” And do not forget “Will the cafeteria food be good, and will I excel academically at this level?”
Add to that list the rigors of being a student athlete committed to playing NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) football that will be assimilating to the new culture of a second family. You can see how all this may be a big moment in the life of a young person. Such is the future for Grain Valley High School seniors Donovan McBride and Hunter Newsom.
McBride has recently announced his verbal commitment to play NCAA Division I football for Murray State University. The school is situated in Murray, Kentucky and nestled in the Southwest corner of the state. The 2020 enrollment listed for the university is 9,569 students and the Murray State Racers are under the direction of Dean Hood, a 30 year veteran of college football.
McBride is happy with his scholarship offer and pleased with the way that Murray State has stayed in touch with him throughout the recruitment process. The 6’ 4” 270 pound defensive lineman will be playing in the nearly 17,000 seat Roy Stewart Stadium next fall.
“I had a lot of schools reach out to me during the recruitment process. I chose Murray State because of their consistency. They made it a point to ask how my family was doing, to check with me to see how my grades were, and how my football season was going on a weekly basis. They no doubt want me to be a part of their program,” McBride said.
“Obviously, I am little anxious about what is ahead. Some of the guys I will be facing are going to be bigger and stronger initially, and some will have kids for crying out loud.”
McBride continued, “On the other hand, I am ready to play football again. I miss it. I am looking forward to being a part of a team that have eleven guys on each side of the football ready to get after it.”
McBride’s unselfishness was on display this fall for the Eagles. Starting along the offensive line as a center and learning the position over the summer paid dividends for Grain Valley head football coach David Allie. McBride would play both ways along the offensive and defensive lines, including both at defensive tackle and defensive end as a member of the Eagles black shirt defense. The Eagles would march on to a 10-2 record that would consist of a share of the Suburban Conference White Division Football Championship.
“Donovan McBride has meant so much to the team for four years. It seems like yesterday that he was a 7th grader coming to our Youth Camp, impressing the coaches at all positions, not just on the line. He was such an athletic and hardworking player then; we knew there would be something special for him in his future and for the future of GVHS football. He did not disappoint,” Allie said.
“He has been a four-year starter and letter-winner for us and brought a level of consistency and accountability to our defensive unit that will be hard to replace. He brought that same stability to the offensive side during the 2020 season as well, and for a player of his size and strength, it amazed us that he rarely asked to come off the field and sometimes had to be dragged to the sideline to get rest.”
Allie added, “His numerous All Conference, All District, and All State awards attest to his ability as a player, but that is just part of what made Donovan such a great member of the Eagle Football Family. Besides his physical prowess and maturity, he has also always been emotionally mature. Of course, kids are kids, and he would sometimes do the silly things that adolescent males do. But for a great majority of the time, and when our team really needed to look to somebody for leadership and guidance, Donovan was that pillar of confident strength.”
“We have counted on him for so long he has become a "fixture" on our defense. I know it will almost feel surreal to step on the field next year and realize that he (and a few of his classmates) are no longer on the team.”
Number 25 for the Eagles will have a new home as well this fall. Newsom has announced his verbal commitment to the University of South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The public university is in Rapid City, South Dakota and had a 2020 enrollment of 2,529.
The Hardrockers play Division II NCAA football and are under the direction of head coach Charlie Flohr. The 6’ 1” 200 pound Newsom double dipped both as a linebacker and running back for the Eagles this football season. Newsom’s enthusiasm for tackling and his ability to avoid blockers will be on display northwest of Grain Valley in 2021.
Newsom was frequently a captain for the Eagles during the pregame coin toss. A mantle of leadership earned and well deserved by Newsom. One that Allie is proud to have coached and will miss next season as new leaders emerge in the Eagles program.
“Hunter Newsom is one of the finest leaders we have ever had at GVHS. One true mark of a leader is that they use every resource available to improve themselves. Hunter was blessed to have two really good leaders (Kole Wagener and Seth Dankenbring) precede him at Inside Linebacker, and he took their examples and improved on them,” Allie said.
“He was also very coachable, willing to take constructive criticism and work on the little things that his coaches, and that he himself, saw that needed to be improved. In addition to his adaptability, he was also relentless on the field and in the weight room. He is a prime example of why wrestlers make great football players and vice versa – the only way to make him quit attacking is to carry him off on a stretcher.”
“His internal drive to succeed made him a great linebacker and running back for us and such hard-nosed play inspired his teammates and helped him become one of the most award-winning players in GVHS history. His selection as First Team Coaches and Media All-State, three different recognitions for Defensive Player of the Year, the All-Simone Team, our team's Napier Award (a legacy award given to the most outstanding Eagle football player), and a handful of other awards are tribute to how good of a player he was.”
Allie concluded, “However, I have a feeling that to him, the most meaningful award he won as an Eagle football player was being elected team captain. His resilience and perseverance showed in the classroom as well, being recognized three times as part of the Academic All-State Team. But if you ask the best thing about him, no matter whether he was excelling on the field and in the classroom or if he was suffering under a pile of weights or running sprints, he always had a smile on his face and was happy just to have an opportunity to be there.”
Both McBride and Newsom have committed to continue as student athletes at the post-secondary level. The Eagles are likely to have other seniors who will be blessed to receive scholarship offers and make announcements in the coming days and weeks. No doubt a sign of hard work and commitment.
“It definitely fills us with pride to see a player who has toiled and sweated for four years be able to reap the rewards of his hard work and effort on the field and in the classroom,” Allie said.
“To me, football is the greatest sport in the world, but most of us are only able to play it competitively for a short time. Any chance that a person can get to continue playing this ultimate-of-sports is cause for celebration. Unfortunately, the truth is even fewer will be lucky enough to play this (or any) sport professionally, so they will have to prepare for a career outside of the game.”
“That is the true reason to celebrate these young men getting the opportunity to continue playing; it means they are getting a chance to go to school to receive training for their future career. When you add the multiplying effect of being exposed to even more lessons from the great game itself, networking with more friends and acquaintances while in college, and simply growing and maturing into adulthood, the opportunity for a scholarship to play a sport becomes one of the most valuable things a person could ever receive.”