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Redblacks' Jonathan Newsome takes the 'me' out of his game

During a professional football journey that’s in its sixth season, a path that has wound through Indianapolis, Regina and Ottawa, there has been a coming of age for Jonathan Newsome.

Newsome, a fifth-round draft pick of the National Football League’s Indianapolis Colts in 2014, has come to realize it’s not a me-first thing, he knows nothing’s going to be handed to him. So, when the Ottawa Redblacks told him they were going to take a look at him as a situational linebacker, Newsome, a defensive end last season, welcomed it with open arms. He’s willing to do whatever he has to do to survive in an occupation that’s all about the team.

On Thursday night in Montreal, with almost every projected starter for the Redblacks out of the lineup for the Canadian Football League preseason game against the Alouettes, Newsome will line up at middle linebacker. It’s an opportunity he wants to make good on.

“I came from playing football in the streets with my friends, so I’m a versatile player,” Newsome said Wednesday following the Redblacks’ walkthrough at TD Place stadium. “I’ve played MIKE (middle) linebacker, I’ve played WILL (weak side) linebacker, I’ve played SAM (strong side) linebacker, I’ve played defensive end, I’ve played running back, I’ve played offensive line … I’m just a football player.

“They worked me a bit at ‘backer last year. I have my own package where I come in and play like a fourth linebacker. I’m super excited about the challenge. I love it, man. I’m happy they did it.”

For Newsome, accepting a role within a team framework was helped by his wife Brelana and 1 1/2-year-old son Jaziel. Brelana is expecting another child in December. Newsome figured out what he did on a football field wasn’t just for himself.

“Going through what I did last year — there were ups and downs — I had to change my expectations,” he said. “I came in and expected to be a starter. Now I come in and know I’m just one of the many pieces of the puzzle and I’m just here to do my job whatever that may be. I wanted to be the best. Now that comes off as a bit selfish. I’m not just playing for myself, I’m playing for my teammates, I’m playing for my family, I’m playing for my livelihood, I’m playing for the fans. It’s not always about me. If things don’t go well, I have to realize this is my job. This opportunity is a blessing, so I can’t be mad. You have to remind yourself there’s a bigger picture in place, even when things don’t go your way.

“Everybody was a superstar before they get here. Once you get to this level, everybody’s a standout. Guys have to remember that feeling you have when you were a kid and strapped on that helmet. You have to dig deep and find that love for the game.”

IN WITH THE NEW: The Redblacks will take a long look at many newcomers Thursday in Montreal. QBs Dominique Davis and Jonathon Jennings are among the long list of expected contributors who won’t be in the lineup. Canadian receivers Nate Behar, Jacob Scarfone and Tyrone Pierre will get good looks. John Crockett will start at running back. The starting offensive line (left to right) is expected to include Devondre Seymour, Philippe Gagnon, Alex Fontana, Daniel Omara and Stephane Nembot.

“We want to give particularly the guys who are new to the Redblacks a really good look on offence, defence and special teams,” Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell said. “It’s different when you get a quarter and you’re rolling through people all the time. For a lot of these guys, playing (Thursday), it’s going to be more like a regular-season game because they’re going to play all or most of the game. They’ll also play special teams at the same time, which is what everybody does during the regular season. We want to see that real live look of a guy being a full-time player in a football game so we can see what he’s about.”

Will Arndt will start at quarterback ahead of last year’s third-stringer Danny Collins, but Campbell advised against reading much into that. “Those two guys are battling for the third spot, so they’re both going to get a half of football,” he said. “We’ll let them go and do their thing.”

HAPPY RETURNS: Ryan Lankford knows what he’s capable of when he gets a football in his hands. So, while limited in playing time last season with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, he’s hoping to make an impact with the Redblacks.

“I’m trying to do everything I need to do and then some to get a position on this team, whether it be as a starting receiver, starting returner or starting holder … it doesn’t matter. I’m just trying to get on the field and show what I can do,” said the 27-year-old Lankford, who had 1,223 yards in kickoff returns and a 105-yard touchdown in 2017. “I definitely feel, when I’m given the opportunity, I can produce. I’m not a big stats guy, but I feel, when the opportunity is there, I have something to show.”

Lankford will play Thursday in Montreal as a wide receiver and returner.

“I’m trying to do a better job this year of just having fun,” he said. “It is a business. There are a ton of moving pieces above and below you that you don’t know about. I can only control what I can control, have a positive attitude and give my best effort every day.”

THE END AROUND: The Redblacks have released offensive lineman Chris Martin, and long snapper Kain Anzovino … A 115-year-old maple tree, which grew six blocks away from TD Place in the front yard of a house on Glebe Avenue, was scheduled to be delivered to the stadium Wednesday. Wood cookies are cut off the log each time the Redblacks score a home touchdown. The cookies, with stamped logos, are presented to community heroes … Alexandra Beaton of The Next Step TV show will be at TD Place stadium on Sept. 7 (Redblacks versus Toronto Argonauts) as part of the CFL’s Family Day promotion. Characters from Iron Man, Spider-Man and PAW Patrol will also be there.

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