Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ghosts of the Orange Bowl: Ed Newman

Longtime sports broadcaster Keith Jackson used to refer to offensive linemen as "the big uglies". The stereotype has always been that offensive linemen were big on brawn but not necessarily big on brains. Former Dolphins guard Ed Newman fit only part of that stereotype. He was arguably the strongest player to ever wear the Miami Dolphins uniform and possibly the smartest. A four-time Pro Bowl selection, Newman set the Dolphins bench press record lifting 510 pounds. But even more impressive, was his transition from the football field to his current job as a Miami-Dade County circuit court judge.

Ed Newman arrived in Miami in 1973 as a 6th round draft pick out of Duke University. At the time, the Dolphins were the best team in football. Miami was coming off a perfect 17-0 season and boasted pro football's best offensive line that included All-Pro guards Larry Little and Bob Kuechenberg. From the moment he arrived, Newman was considered a longshot. At 6'2 and 245 pounds he wasn't particularly big--even for those times. But what Newman did possess was unbelievable strength, work ethic and intelligence. He made the team, but he was burried deep in the depth chart. He barely saw action in his first four seasons and was relegated to mostly special teams. He didn't become a fulltime starter until his seventh year. But by then, Newman had already planned his life after football.

Newman was football's renaissance man. From the moment he was drafted, he never planned on having a long career. He constantly challenged his body and mind. During the offseason he took classes at the University of Miami Law School. He also worked as a volunteer wrestling coach at Florida International University, back when the school had a wrestling program. He was a workout warrior in the weight room. When Bob Kuechenberg set the team record with a 485 pound bench press, Newman equaled Kuenchenberg's lift and then just kept adding weight. It was clear, Newman was not your ordinary offensive lineman.

By 1979 Newman was too good to keep on the bench. After six years of paying his dues as a backup, it was his turn to start. Aside from his strength, Newman was also known for his ability as a technician. He was a master at using leverage and beating bigger defensive lineman at the point of attack. By 1981, he was considered one of the NFL's best guards and was selected the first of his four Pro Bowls. In 1982, he helped the Dolphins return to the Super Bowl for the first time in nine years. The Dolphins lost to the Redskins in Super Bowl XVII. The 1983 season started a new era of Dolphin football--the Dan Marino years. Newman had spent his whole career protecting Bob Griese, David Woodley and Don Strock. He would now have to place more emphasis on his pass-blocking as the Dolphins became more throwing oriented. Newman played his final season in 1984, helping the Dolphins win the AFC title. His final game was the loss to the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX. It was the last time the Dolphins had reached the Super Bowl. Newman blew out his knee before the 1985 season and retired from football.

Ed Newman played all 12 seasons of his NFL career with the Dolphins, which consisted of 167 games. All of his home games were played at the Orange Bowl. As a 6th round pick, he never expected to play this long. When his football career ended, he was ready to embark on his next career in law. Throughout his football career he prepared himself for life after sports. During road trips he would often spend his time reading law books on the plane rather than his playbook. When he retired from football, he had already earned his law degree from the University of Miami. He worked for a private law firm, started his own firm and then was elected as a Dade County circuit court judge in 1995 where he remains today.

Recently Newman was interviewed by Dave Hyde of the Sun Sentinel about his transition from football player to judge. He replied, "The feeling I used to get running out in the Orange Bowl between the cheerleaders as the crowd cheered my introduction is the same feeling I get now when the bailiff say 'All rise,' and I walk in the courtroom."


Eric Nance Woehler said...

Very cool stuff.

And now I want to read about Eric Laakso.

samantha said...

I've just started reading your blog. Lots of great stuff here... nice work!
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