The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Other Sports

June 5, 2014

Newberry a Hall of Famer — again

Peterstown native will be honored at North-South Football Classic later this month

Steve Newberry’s first experience with the West Virginia North-South Football Classic included a torn iris and just one play on the field. His participation this year should include much more pleasant memories as the Peterstown native will be introduced along with former George Washington football coach Steve Edwards Sr., as one of the newest members of the West Virginia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame, bringing the total to 34 former coaches and athletes honored since 2008.

“It was a big honor and a big surprise when I received the phone call a few weeks ago,” said Newberry, who now owns and operates Newberry Ford in Pearisburg, Va., just miles from Peterstown.

A standout for the Pirates in multiple sports before going on to a Hall of Fame career as a defensive back at West Virginia University, Newberry played for the South squad in the North-South game in 1980, but the week didn’t go quite as planned.

During a practice early in the week, Bluefield’s Charles Hunt was running the football when Newberry stepped up for a tackle. Hunt’s stiff-arm ended with a finger in Newberry’s eye, and although his eye was open, Newberry saw nothing.

“It was pretty scary,” he admitted.

After a trip to the hospital, Newberry’s sight eventually returned, but he soon learned he had a torn iris. He spent the remainder of the week watching from the sidelines. He dressed for the game but only got in for one play as a punter, where he punted “one of the two footballs” he was seeing in the fourth quarter.

Despite the injury, Newberry said he looks back fondly on the experience.

“The best memories are the friendships I made,” he said. “I got to meet a lot of the guys I’d heard about and read about but hadn’t seen. I got to meet some of my future WVU teammates. I roomed with Bill Legg (Poca) and I met Jeff Deem (Williamstown). I met a lot of guys and really made some good friendships.”

Newberry next stepped onto the field for the North-South game as an assistant coach in 2000, serving under Don Jackson, whom Newberry served as an assistant at James Monroe High School.

“I thoroughly enjoyed that,” he said of his stint as a coach. “The tough thing was getting the team assembled. There are so many nominations and a lot of players you had heard of but hadn’t seen. It was really tough.”

His coaching duties weren’t. Newberry coached the South secondary, which included Princeton’s Tyrone Gilliard, who went on to play at Pitt, Woodrow Wilson’s Michael Harvey, Michael Hill of Riverside and other highly skilled defensive backs.

“You’d just turn them loose and they could cover,” he said. “I didn’t have to spend much time teaching. But it was a good, solid week.”

That was Newberry’s only experience on the sideline for the game, but he’s been back to a few since to watch what he believes is a special game.

“Each side has the feeling that they want to prove their brand of football is better than what people think,” he said. “I think it’s an honor to be selected and represent a school and a community. There’s a sense of pride from both sides, and its a special feeling to team up with some of those guys you’ve played against.”

Newberry will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame at a ceremony at West Virginia State University on June 21, a week after his daughter, Kelly, who played volleyball at Concord, gets married. He’ll be introduced later that night before the game, which kicks off at 7 p.m.

“It’s going to be neat,” said Newberry, who coached football at Peterstown and James Monroe for 22 years before giving it up this past fall to help his son, Nick, coach the Maverick baseball team. “I haven’t been to the game for a while. I’m excited to see some of those players I’ve heard about.”

One that particularly interests WVU’s all-time interceptions leader is Greenbrier West quarterback Malik Boatwright, whom he faced on the baseball field this spring.

“He’s small, but he really moves well,” said Newberry. “He’s going to be fun to watch.”

— E-mail: chuffman and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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