Giorgio Newberry just wanted to contribute. So when Jimbo Fisher approached him about giving tight end a try he agreed.
Although a bit reluctantly.
Newberry was a blue-chip defensive end recruit out of Fort Pierce Central in 2011. Two years later, the Seminoles were desperate for tight end help behind Nick O’Leary after Kevin Haplea’s season was lost to an injury.
“It was a team thing,” Newberry said. “We really had one tight end. I thought about it and came back with a decision I don’t mind helping the team.”
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Newberry played in all 14 games that championship season of 2013. He did not make a catch. Still, he longed to return to defense and made the switch back for the 2014 season, but now working inside and outside.
Now, 18 months later, Newberry, a 6-foot-6, 295-pound fifth-year senior, is back at defensive end (sort of) and finally is contributing like he envisioned nearly five years ago.
Newberry often slides inside to defensive tackle on third-and-long because of his pass-rushing ability.
“You don’t ever know when a guy decides,” Fisher said. “Sometimes there’s the urgency. You get to your junior and senior years and say, ‘I’ve got to do it. I’ve got to grow up.’
“I’ve been on him at times and rode him extremely hard, but the guy is playing great football now. And he can be a huge difference in our football team.”
Said Newberry: “He just never gave up on me.”
Newberry’s name was nowhere on the preseason depth chart and now he is listed as the Seminoles’ backup to defensive end Demarcus Walker. He saw the most snaps of his career (25-30) during FSU’s 59-16 season-opening win against Texas State and could command even more Saturday when No. 11 FSU hosts South Florida (1-0).
Newberry was credited with one tackle against the Bobcats, but Fisher saw much more on film.
“Giorgio is playing football,” he said. “That guy can change us. [He] can run and play inside or outside.”
Newberry is part of a stable of defensive linemen that goes three deep in many positions. And after moving from defense to tight end, then back to defense and now playing two positions, Newberry wasn’t sure if he’d ever be a regular contributor at one position.
But during the spring he decided to make something of his last go-around. He had a few heart-to-heart talks with coaches along with himself.
“Going into the season I had to remind myself this is the last season for me playing college football, you got to do something to get better to help the team,” Newberry said. “I had to push myself and keep working.”
Part of that plan was to add weight. He’s heavier than he has ever been (25 pounds more than he was as a tight end) but also in the best shape since he arrived in Tallahassee.
“His sheer size and arm length, him able to use his hands and stuff like that, he should really have a good year,” starting tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample said. “He should have a great year.”
Safety Lamarcus Brutus also is a member of the vaunted 2011 class in which five players made the NFL last season and another six were in their first NFL camp this season.
Brutus, who faced Newberry in high school when he played for Port St. Lucie-Treasure Coast, received his first career start Saturday after persevering for four years.
Brutus said their stories are similar.
“A guy from the same area, redshirted, it’s been a few years and finally put his nose down, worked hard and it’s paying off,” Brutus said.
For Newberry, this is just the beginning.
“I was very impressed how I was flying around out there, running to the ball,” he said. “Now I got a little taste of blood, I can do a little more out there now.”