My Elite Network: Do you have a favorite memory from playing at the University of Nebraska?
Bob Newton: Winning Nebraska’s first National Championship in 1970 in the Orange Bowl against LSU is my greatest memory. We had great coaches and teammates at Nebraska. That year we went undefeated, but the second game of the season we did tie USC, 21-21. That was our only blemish for the season.
My Elite Network: How did you find out that the Chicago Bears drafted you?
Bob Newton: After the Orange Bowl I flew to Mobile Alabama to play in the Senior Bowl. At that time, I was predicted to be a mid-first-round NFL draft pick. But, the Senior Bowl was a bad game for me, I hurt my back significantly the Thursday before the game and was hospitalized and didn’t get out of the hospital until Saturday morning before the game. I went ahead and tried to play. It was a rough game for me as I was lined up against future NFL HOF Jack Youngblood from Florida University and could not finish the game due to my back injury. Jack Youngblood received lineman of the game honors. Before the draft, a good buddy and Nebraska teammate Dana Stephensen and I went to the local radio station where they had a teletype machine. We were sitting in the lounge just hanging out, waiting to hear. I admit I was pretty frustrated that I didn’t go in the first round or second rounds. I was getting worried and frustrated. When the Chicago Bears finally chose me in the third round it was a huge relief. I was happy to be drafted. But, because of the Senior Bowl performance, I went from a mid-first round pick to a mid-third-round draft pick.
My Elite Network: What was it like walking into the locker room for the first time?
Bob Newton: At the Bears training camp in Rensselaer, In. I walked in and found my locker with number # 78 and few lockers away was #51, Dick Butkus. For a rookie that was quite an experience. It was amazing playing with Dick Butkus for 3 years before he had to retire due to knee injuries. And, playing one year each with Gale Sayers and Walter Payton and teammates with Bobby Douglass all the other Bear players was special.. Another interesting fact of my rookie year during training camp was the filming of “Brian’s Song.” Billy Dee Williams and James Caan were hanging around training camp for about three weeks. Of course, the movie was a tremendous and popular success.
My Elite Network: Do you have a favorite game from your time at the Bears?
Bob Newton: I think my favorite game was in 1972, our Monday Night Game against the Minnesota Vikings. We beat them 13 to 10, this was a really big win for us. The Bears hadn’t beat the Vikings for awhile. The Vikings were a great team and were winning the Central Division every year and going to Super Bowls.
My Elite Network: How did you end up at the Seattle Seahawks?
Bob Newton: During my five years with the Bears, we had three different head coaches and offensive line coaches. So it was difficult to build continuity with ongoing major changes. In an exhibition game in the summer of 1975, I took a hit in my thigh and the injury put me out for half a year. Every time I tried to play, I would injure the thigh. It was a long recovery. Anyway, the Bears were bringing in new players and heading another direction and could see my injury set me back with the organization. I asked the Bears to move me on with a trade or put me on waivers at the end of the 1976 exhibition season. They put me on waivers and the Seattle Seahawks claimed me and by the end of that day, I was on a flight to Seattle. It was the right decision and really enjoyed helping the Seahawks build an expansion team to a competitive NFL contender.
My Elite Network: What was it like playing with Jim Zorn and Steve Largent?
Bob Newton: Pretty amazing. When I first saw Steve Largent I said, “Who’s that high school kid in our locker room?” He was young looking but a phenomenal NFL wide receiver. They were both very young guys but great exciting football players and helped us to become competitive as an expansion team. We had some great veterans on that team: Norm Evans who played on the 1972 undefeated 17-0 Miami Dolphins team. Norm was a great leader, and we became good friends. Mike Curtis, former Baltimore Colts All-pro linebacker another great veteran. Steve Largent was humble, a very hard worker and fearless. I saw him make blocks against huge NFL linemen in the open field. Jim Zorn was an amazing quarterback who could run and pass and our sprint out package was hard to stop... we did set the NFL record for the fastest winning expansion team in history with our 1978 team, 9-7 record.
My Elite Network: Are there one or two people who have influenced your life?
Bob Newton: Well, when I was coming up as a football player in high school and junior college , I idolized Ron Yary as an offensive lineman.He was 3-4 years older than me. He was an All-American offensive lineman at USC and was drafted number one in the 1968 NFL draft as the first offensive lineman in NFL history to be the first pick of the draft. He also attended Cerritos College where I attended for 2 years. And, we are good friends today and stay in touch. The person who had the most influence for my recovery from alcoholism/addiction, was my counselor in treatment, Don Anderson . I had a great connection with him and he provided hope for sobriety. Of course, Tom Osborne has been a great mentor for education, football and my spiritual life in recovery.
My Elite Network: What are you doing now?
Bob Newton: I went into treatment for my own addiction problems with alcohol and other drugs in 1983. While there, I became very passionate and felt there was a lot of ignorance in our society about addiction. So, I got very motivated to educate folks and to help them get sober and clean. I went back to school and achieved my Masters degree and counseling credentials and have been working in the chemical dependency field and counseling field since 1986. I was with the Betty Ford Center for the last 16 years. Now, I’m working at a private clinic with Dr. Harry Haroutunian. We work with patients in a private clinic setting who are struggling with substance use disorders. We have a real problem with addictive drugs in our society today and helping patients get well can be very rewarding.
Author: Celi Legget
Recently retired from a successful 25 year career in education/administration, Celi Leggett, is known as an amateur photographer being featured in several Mississippi Cookbooks and Colorado College sports publications. Her eye for detail and personal relationship skills bring a sense of thoughtfulness to her writing.