Newman has sights set on being game's top cornerback

IRVING, Texas -- The heat blisters, the Dallas Cowboys exert, and it is evident that this bunch is not standard NFL fare. The Cowboys present an NFL-record 13 Pro Bowl players from a season ago. Their mandatory camp is as much a platform of talent as it is team -- even minus T.O.

One player in this group constantly makes you gaze his way.

It is his competiveness, instincts, quickness, burst, confidence and professionalism.

It is cornerback Terence Newman.

Champ Bailey still holds it down at corner with the Denver Broncos and Asante Samuel will turn heads in his new home with the Philadelphia Eagles. Antonio Cromartie has emerged with the San Diego Chargers and Al Harris helps make the Green Bay Packers defense a force.

But Terence Newman can match any of these cornerbacks step-for-step, play-for-play. This is a very special football player. The ardent football follower knows him.

The rest -- pay attention.

"I like it when people say I'm not the best; that's really OK," Newman said. "I'd say Champ is the best, but even he has his flaws like the rest of us. I'm not worried about people calling me the best now. But when I'm done playing, I don't want there to be any discussion about it. When my career is done, I don't want to be just mentioned. I want the discussion to end right there, with me. That's one of my biggest goals. I can achieve it."

With lightening-rod Adam "Pacman" Jones joining the Cowboys, you do not have to look far to find some who believe that Newman just became the second-best cornerback on his own team.

Uh, no, says Newman.

"We talk, he's a good guy and I gave him some of my cleats that he liked," Newman said of Jones. "He's going to be great for us. He definitely gets to work like I do. But the best corner on the team? He's got to take that away from me because right now I am."

Newman said that as coolly and unassumingly as stating he was strolling to the store for milk and would return in 20 minutes.

Newman was the fifth pick in the 2003 draft, a Kansas State player who arrived at that school as a runt (5-foot-6, 155 pounds). He was redshirted. He was a reserve for two years and then worked into starting role for his final two seasons.

He hit it running with the Cowboys, earning Pro Bowl-alternate status as a rookie, and since has kept climbing among the game's elite. Last year, a foot injury caused him to miss three games, yet he still earned a Pro Bowl berth.

His peers respect his talents.

His coaches do, too.

"He's got to be one of the top two or three corners in the league," said Dave Campo, the Dallas defensive backs coach. "A really confident guy who works at it. A serious-minded player."

And this from Cowboys assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Jason Garrett: "He's great for us to work against as an offense. He can stand up against the run, he's smart, he can cover deep, he can cover short. You name all the things a corner needs and he's got 'em. The best in the league? Well, let's just say it's hard to have that discussion without putting his name in the group."

Newman, 29, learned to battle while growing up in Salinas, Kan., on the North Side, the "other side" of the railroad tracks.

His area was lower income, he said, and shooting hoops at the Hawthorne Elementary court was his first love. He and his friends would shoot there, he said, "every day until it was too dark to see the rim."

Newman and his older sister watched as their mother worked two jobs to provide for them, which meant he was left to figure out plenty on his own about what kind of man he would become and what kind of success he would build.

His father, Donald Jackson, left the family when Newman was 4. He has not seen his father since.

"Yeah, I'm one of those stories," Newman said. "And the strange thing is I know he lives somewhere here in Texas. I think it is the responsibility of the father to seek his son, not the son to seek his father. My grandfather, Earnest Newman, helped fill some of that role. But what I did most growing up was look at my mom and how she reacted to the situation she was in. She never gave up no matter what she was dealt. I always thought, 'If she can do that, I can make something of what I've got.'

"I learned how to regulate and create my own laws and rules for myself. I wanted to do something. Do something different. So, I stayed in school for my senior year at Kansas State and earned my degree in criminology. I became the first in my family to graduate."

He joined the 2003 draft class that included first-rounders Carson Palmer (No. 1 overall pick), Troy Polamalu (16th), Larry Johnson (27th) and Nnamdi Asomugha (31st).

Newman on Parcells, Phillips

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" Bill Parcells used to ask me what I was doing with my money. He used to ask me was I still talking to my college coaches. He would ask about my family. Coach Phillips is that kind of person. They are two totally different coaches but in many ways the same coach. The styles are different but what they want out of players is exactly the same. They have different paths to getting there. Coach Parcells was a lot more gruff with guys and Coach Phillips doesn't do that -- unless he has to. Different but so much the same. Driven."

He was the first draft selection by then Dallas coach Bill Parcells.

The Cowboys know what they have in Newman. He recently signed a six-year deal worth $51 million that included nearly $23 million guaranteed and a $12 million signing bonus.

The fastest guy on the block from the other side of the tracks is now 5-foot-11, 195 pounds. He plays much bigger than that. And, entering his sixth pro season, lays out for the Cowboys.

After the team's two-hour Wednesday morning practice in 90-degree heat, Newman in a couple minutes was the first one into the weight room for extra work. Not mandatory, just Newman. He pushed himself in there for another 45 minutes along with four or five others. Newman was the last one out.

"We do have 13 Pro Bowlers, so, it's hard to say who is this or that at the top," Dallas quarterback Tony Romo said. "But Terence is a great athlete, very special. He works hard. He's tough."

Newman is constantly in Campo's ear, asking questions, seeking insight. He does this in his quest to be the best. He also does it to set an example for the Cowboys' secondary youth. Often, the young players come to him. He wants them to go more comfortably to Campo. And Newman figures, if he does it, with his stature, surely they will follow. He said that is working.

Cowboys management says Newman eagerly agrees to charity work. Newman is also venturing more into business, especially into restaurants with former Cowboy Keyshawn Johnson. Newman's big plans mirror that of the Cowboys.

To finish on top.

"We can get there if we understand what each guy has to give and if we help each other," Newman said. "There's a great chance of that happening if we make something out of what we've got."

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