Cowboys’ Nate Newton enters Black College Football HoF

Cowboys’ Nate Newton enters Black College Football HoF


Over 13 seasons wearing the star, Nate Newton was an anchoring member of one the most dominant offensive lines in NFL history, “The Great Wall of Dallas.” And he ended up the most decorated one of the bunch. He played on three Super Bowl-winning teams during the franchise’s greatest run. He earned a trip to six Pro Bowls. He was named a first-team All-Pro twice.

Nate Newton did it all as a Cowboy. But he was granted football immortality for what he did as a Rattler.

The 60-year-old Newton, who last played pro ball in 1999, was inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame this past weekend in Atlanta. Several Cowboys teammates- including Troy Aikman, Deion Sanders, Daryl Johnston, Tony Tolbert, and Mark Stepnoski- were on hand to celebrate with him.

“I’m humbled. I’m humbled. This is something special,” Newton said, per Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “What makes me feel good is my teammates were there, my sons, my brother and sister. It was Father’s Day. There was a Juneteenth parade across the street. I had everybody that was somebody to me there. What more can I ask for? How much better could this weekend have been? All I needed was Jesus to come in and resurrect this thing and take us out of here.”

Even on squads that were loaded with larger-than-life personalities, Newton was always among the biggest, in every sense of the word.

Playing at anywhere from 325 to nearly 370 pounds, Newton was nicknamed “The Kitchen” because he was even larger than William “The Refrigerator” Perry of the Chicago Bears.

The team tried to slim him down. Then-Cowboys owner Tex Schramm famously offered Newton an $80,000 bonus if he simply arrived for camp weighing under 310.

“If someone offers you $80,000 to be unhappy, you shouldn’t take it,” Newton would say. “So [expletive] $80,000; I’d rather eat.”

Coming out of Florida A&M, Newton was selected by the Tampa Bay Bandits in the 1983 USFL Territorial Draft but chose to sign instead with Washington in the NFL as an undrafted free agent. He was waived during training camp.

He returned to the Bandits and played two seasons in the USFL. After that league folded, he signed with the Cowboys as a free agent in 1986. He played 37 games under head coach Tom Landry before Jerry Jones bought the franchise in 1989.

Under new coach Jimmy Johnson, Newton saw a position change- from left guard to right tackle- after the nearly-50-year-old coach beat Newton in a foot race. By 1992, though, he was back at left guard. The offensive line that also included Stepnoski, John Gesek, Erik Williams, and Mark Tuinei helped running back Emmitt Smith win a rushing title and led the Cowboys to a 13-3 regular season record.

Dallas went on to throttle Buffalo 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII to cap off the season.

“It is unbelievable,” Newton said that night in Pasadena. “I am so filled with joy, I can’t even express it. If I could explode, I would. But I can’t, because my insurance ain’t paid up.”

Good thing, too. Newton would play in his first Pro Bowl a week later.

It was the first of five consecutive Pro Bowl berths for Newton, who had become a genuine celebrity in his own right. This is, after all, the player who John Madden once accused of polishing off a Snickers bar on the field in the middle of a live play.

“I was like, ‘Did a damn candy bar just fly from Nate’s body or am I imagining things?’”defensive back Larry Brown recalled.

Stepnoski remembers training camp fast-food runs made on Newton’s behalf.

“The Kitchen” would sent out a rookie multiple times a week and “return with a sixty-piece box of Popeyes fried chicken, biscuits, French fries, and a case of Budweiser,” according to Jeff Pearlman’s book Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty.

“Whoever was hungry would take some pieces,” Stepnoski added. “Then Nate would eat the last fifteen or twenty pieces himself.”

Gesek would say later, “Quite frankly, the reason I think Nate went to six Pro Bowls was because his weight was such a joke it got him attention.”

Cowboys’ Nate Newton enters Black College Football HoF

15 Sep 1996: Offensive lineman Nate Newton of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates during a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. The Colts won the game, 25-24. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr /Allsport

But Newton was so much more than a punch line. The only Cowboys offensive linemen with more Pro Bowls to their credit are Hall of Famer Larry Allen (10), Tyron Smith (8), and Zack Martin (7). Newton’s six ties him with John Niland and Hall of Famer Rayfield Wright.

“I don’t see myself as some great player,” Newton said last weekend. “I see myself as a good guy and someone you can depend on. Things just keep happening for the good.”

After 13 seasons with the Cowboys, Newton went on to a backup role in Carolina, but his playing career ended with a torn triceps tendon in just his seventh game with the Panthers.

Newton got into some trouble after leaving football, getting arrested twice with large quantities of marijuana in his possession and serving 30 months in federal prison for drug trafficking as a result.

Since then, though, he has become a motivational speaker for student-athletes around the country. He has continued to be a part of the Cowboys’ extended family, working for the team’s media department and website, as well as doing appearances at alumni events.

And now his football life has taken him to the Black College Football Hall of Fame, alongside HBCU legends such as Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, and Doug Williams. Fellow Cowboys Bob Hayes, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Timmy Newsome, Jethro Pugh, Everson Walls, Rayfield Wright, and Erik Williams are there, too.

“I’m living life,” Newton summed up afterward. “I am a Dallas Cowboy. That is where it began and ended for me.”

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