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The big question coming into this football season was, “How are the Vandals going to replace Levi Ulmer?”
The bruising fullback moved on to Ripon College, leaving a 1,200-yard void at the fullback position, but ask anyone in the Vandalia football program whether they think a void really exists, and you’ll get a pretty standard answer.
“He’s an awesome fullback,” said senior Jeff Lucken of fellow senior teammate Alex Newsom. “People keep saying that we don’t have Levi Ulmer, but I think Alex can be just as good.”
Truth is, Newsom probably won’t post the same numbers that Ulmer did, but that’s because he’s a different type of runner.
Newsom will occasionally bull over an opposing player like Ulmer would, but he also brings more finesse to the position, and he showed that during Friday’s 42-14 win against Gillespie, carrying the ball 10 times for 88 yards and a touchdown.
His long run of 33 yards came up a yard short of the end zone, but he later plunged in from 4 yards out.
“Alex is a different kind of back, with great vision and nice cuts,” said coach John Stout. “He made some nice jukes to get some extra yards (on Friday).”
But if replacing one player now playing in college wasn’t enough, Newsom has been tasked with replacing two.
Having been a varsity linebacker since he was a sophomore, Newsom’s transition to lead linebacker – replacing McKendree University’s Blake Mills – has been very smooth.
He recorded four solo tackles against Gillespie, which employed some well-built running backs.
“He brings strength itself, because he is a big hitter who is filling Blake Mills’ shoes,” said teammate Ryan Ambuehl.
But Newsom isn’t looking at this season as the one where he has to replace two college-bound players.
He’s looking at this fall as the year where he gets to take what he learned from Ulmer and Mills and use it to make his own mark.
“It doesn’t bother me too much,” he said. “I got to train behind them, so all I can do is go out, play and take what they taught me.”
Newsom said that Ulmer taught him to “be a little crazy” and to always run hard, and that Mills’ main lesson was to never “be scared to go hit somebody.”
Now as a senior, Newsom needs to take those lessons learned and display them for the next generation of players, who hopefully will also inherit Newsom’s leadership abilities.
Before official practice began, Stout told the players what types of conditioning he wanted them to do on their own, and that if they came to practice out of shape, Stout would take care of their conditioning during two-a-day practices.
“He’s the guy who got them organized before the season, and does a great job,” Stout said. “Alex has been one of that group’s leaders ever since VYO.”
Newsom’s next stop after high school will be on a football scholarship if he is offered one; otherwise, he hopes to work toward a job with the state police.
But that’s not before he finds Vandalia’s end zone several more times this season, and if all goes well, giving the town a team to watch in the state playoff series.
“We go out there and play for ourselves and our town,” Newsom said. “When everybody comes out and watches us, that’s great to us.”
The Newsom File
The Leader-Union's rapid-fire Q&A with Alex Newsom.
Parents: Smokey and Amy.
College team: Oklahoma.
Other sport: Basketball.
Food: Steak & potatoes.
Music artist: Anything country.
TV Show: Ridiculousness.
Dream job: President.