Newburger in New Role Versatile Athlete Adds Football to List of Sports

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Newburger in New Role Versatile Athlete Adds Football to List of Sports


Heading into last week's season opener, Jason Newburger had hours and hours of football experience under his belt.

That is, if all those football video games he played over the years counted for something.

If not, then the truth of the matter is: Newburger couldn't have been any more green when he took his first snap last Saturday as Vernon Hills' starting quarterback. Not only had he not played any "real-time" football since the sixth grade, he had also never before in his life played quarterback ... in a non-video game setting, of course.

But when Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken went recruiting the halls last spring in an effort to put together a brand new team for his brand new school, there was just one name at the top of his wish list for quarterback.

Experience or no experience, Monken always knew Newburger was his man.

"I knew he didn't play football at Libertyville and that he hadn't played at all in a while, but I had been thinking about him for a long time as a guy we really needed to have," Monken said. "I felt that if we could get him on board, not only would we have a dynamic personality who would be a great leader, we'd also have a guy who would make a great quarterback in our system.

"We knew we were going to run the option and to run the option, you need a great athlete at quarterback."

There's no question Newburger is a great athlete.

He showed that dozens of times in his high school football debut. Against Geneva, he threw for 2 long touchdowns, scrambled to turn sure losses into key gains and guided his underdog team to a halftime lead.

"I was so nervous. I only slept about two or three hours the night before and I had butterflies in my stomach before the game started," Newburger said. "But after the first play, they started to go away. Even though there were a lot of things I could have done better, it didn't take me long to feel pretty comfortable out there.

"I don't have a lot of football experience but I think if you're athletic, you can kind of make up for that and surprise people."

Actually, Newburger has made quite a habit out of surprising people with his athletic development.

Only a junior, he's started at the varsity level for two other teams already. At Libertyville last year, he quickly worked his way into the shooting guard spot for the basketball team, which he ended up leading in steals.

Then, he followed that up with a great spring for the Wildcat baseball team. He started at third base and maintained one of the best batting averages on the team at .369.

Now, of course, he's a varsity starter at quarterback.

Years ago, Newburger's father Mark was a three-sport star (football, wrestling and baseball) at Niles East. In fact, many kids back then played sports year round.

But these days, few high school athletes show either the talent or the inclination to excel at that level for three consecutive seasons. …

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