CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — “Got that dog in me,” Newton said.
That type of mentality is why Illinois defensive lineman Johnny Newton is living up to the hype after being named an AP Preseason First Team All-American, the first ever for Illinois. Newton is leading the Illini in sacks and QB hurries, while causing disruptions to offenses. The 6’2″, 295 pound junior even blocked a field goal attempt against Penn State.
“It felt really good,” Newton said. “Honestly, you know, as anyone can imagine having two dominate games gives you a great confidence boost. Just a lot of momentum my way.”
“That is the heart and soul of how we want to be identified when Johnny Newton plays the way he played on Saturday,” Illinois defensive coordinator Aaron Henry said.
With that type of play, Newton is only continuing to turn heads of NFL scouts, upping his draft stock each game this season. ESPN’s Mel Kiper projects the Florida native as a top 20 pick.
“I started to pick up a little buzz last year and to see the things this year, I mean it’s pretty cool to see all the hard work come into play and just chasing my dream every day,” Newton said.
Deciding to return to the Orange and Blue this season, Newton was the highest graded defensive tackle last week according to PFF, proving why he should be paid to play next year.
“I want to show dominance every play,” Newton said. “Someone who is unblockable. That I’m one of the best prospects in the draft.”
Something that makes him standout, his impact late in games.
“Johnny is a very, very special player and it obviously goes without saying, like you got to see that, but that kid works,” Henry said. “That young man works. He don’t have an off button and what’s crazy is he gets stronger the longer the game goes and I’ve never seen something like it up front.”
“I’m out lasting other players,” Newton said. “As the game goes on everybody gets worn out, tired, body starts to hurt. I feel like I get a high adrenaline rush while I’m in the game so I just get more and more hype as the game goes by.”
That hunger is what may take Newton to the next level.
“Starving,” Newton said. “Coach B asked us, I think it was before the first game, how hungry are you, and I said starving.”