NASHVILLE, Ill. – Not all roads to the National Football League are created equal. Not all big dreams come from big towns.
“We’re only 400 enrollment,” former Nashville basketball coach Brad Weathers said. “Town is a little over 3,000.”
What Nashville may lack in size is made up of some incredible talent; few more popular than Royce Newman.
“Everybody knows Royce,” Weathers added.
The former two-sport standout for the Hornets dazzled fans and troubled opponents on the football field and basketball court.
As a tight end, Newman led his team in receiving, finishing his career among the program’s leaders in the position. As a forward, Newman led his team in scoring for three-straight seasons, nearly leading his team to a state championship in 2014. His talent in both sports confused even the people closest to him.
“To be truthful, I didn’t know he was going to play football past high school,” Kim Newman, Royce’s mom, said. “I didn’t even now he was all that good.”
His father, Dale Newman, saw a shift in his son’s focus early on.
“He was kind of geared toward basketball until he stopped growing,” Dale said.
Fortunately, the skillset required for both sports molded Royce into quite the prospect. Former Nashville head football coach Tim Kuhn understood his star receiver’s potential early on.
“Royce was our all-time leading receiver,” Kuhn said. “I think that’s what everybody saw in the scouting process. His athleticism would carry over to the offensive line.”
Newman transitioned from a pass-catcher to a pass-and-run blocker.
With a handful of offers from college programs, Newman eventually signed with the University of Mississippi. Despite receiving an offer from the University of Missouri, Newman flipped his commitment following the resignation of former Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel.
Newman’s draft stock was considerable but continued to rise following an Outback Bowl victory over No. 6 Indiana and an appearance in the Senior Bowl.
Despite a disappointing first night, Newman finally heard his name.
With the 142nd pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select: Royce Newman.
“It sank in for sure,” Kim Newman said. “But it still doesn’t even seem real.”
The work had just begun, however, with training camp set to begin. Expectations were tempered, but the city of Nashville, IL had a new favorite team.
“We were hoping and praying that he’d not only get drafted but make the team,” Weathers said. “He’s gone well beyond that.”
In 15 games, Newman has played every snap at right guard, helping the NFC-leading Packers to a 12-3 record heading into a Sunday-night matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
The former Nashville still shares texts with his parents before and after every game.
When asked what Dale Newman messages his son before game time, his answer was simple: “I’d rather keep that one between us.”
The Green Bay Packers are currently favored to win the Super Bowl, yet another big dream Newman may get to bring home to his small town.