Bobby Newcombe’s players, the ones he coaches at Casteel High School in Arizona, sometimes ask him about his remarkable plays they watch on YouTube.
You know, the plays in which Newcombe deftly sidesteps one defender after another and outruns others to the end zone, as he did during his 94-yard punt return against Missouri in 2000.
However, Newcombe, now 38, typically redirects those Casteel players who ask him about his football prowess at Nebraska.
“I think what’s more important is them and where they’re at in their development and defining their own path and adding their own personality and style to the fundamentals I teach them,” said the former Husker quarterback and wingback, who last month became the interim head coach at the school in Queen Creek, 38 miles southeast of Phoenix.
Newcombe was raised to believe in the importance of education, which helps explain his doctorate in management and leadership.
He obviously has studied leadership extensively. In that sense, becoming a coach was a calling.
“I’ve long understood the level of responsibility in being a leader, whether it’s at a school or in an athletic program or a business,” he said. “There’s a lot to it.”
As far back as his playing days at Nebraska (1997-2000), he considered the possibility of being a coach. His current opportunity came about June 11 when Casteel’s former head coach announced he was leaving the school to make a move to Minnesota that would be more beneficial for his family with his wife's new job.
Enter Newcombe, who arrived at Casteel last year as a business marketing teacher and receivers coach. He previously had stints as an assistant at Mesa (Arizona) Community College and Basha (Arizona) High School.
Although Casteel’s football program enters only its fourth year, the Colts were 14-0 last year in capturing the 3A state championship and will make the jump to 5A this year with the school's first senior class. Arizona’s largest classification is 6A.
Newcombe is Casteel’s physical education department chairman and will take over the football academy classes led by the previous head coach.
As for his interim tag, Newcombe said, “It’s a performance-based type of job. I think if I perform well, they may extend that opportunity to maybe interview for the job or go through a process, and become that permanent guy.”
Perhaps he can help nail down the job by coaching punt returners. He was particularly dynamic in that area at Nebraska, finishing his career ranked second in program history with 829 yards, averaging an eye-popping 17.3 on 48 attempts. He credits teammates’ blocking and the emphasis placed on special teams.
“We usually put some of our best players in the return game,” he said. “At times, you were seeing Grant Wistrom running down the field blocking.”
Yeah, that probably inspired some confidence, as did former Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne’s steady hand in all aspects. Newcombe, now a married father of four sons between the ages of 15 and 5, has stayed in contact with Osborne.
“He’s had a huge influence on me — professionally and even personally,” Newcombe said. “That’s what I wanted leaving high school. I wanted that wise, older mentor who would help guide me through college and even after. He’s always left that door open for me to reach out to him. I’ve done that over the last 20 years. He’s always been available, regardless of where he’s at or what he’s doing.
“That’s been a huge help and blessing for me.”
What did Newcombe remember most about Osborne as a coach?
“I’d say his genuine authenticity,” Newcombe said. “He’s very consistent in his values. That is a centerpiece of building an organization, is being authentic in your relationships with people and interactions with people, so they know when you tell them one thing one day, they know that two weeks, three weeks, two years later, it’s going to be the same truth you told before.”
Newcombe teaches players the importance of respect, discipline and work ethic. Those aren’t just buzz words to him. He ponders their meaning. To wit: He wants his players to respect the sport of football, respect opponents, respect people who support them and respect themselves.
Respecting yourself is an underrated trait, in my opinion. But in many ways, it all starts there. As a player, Newcombe carried himself in an almost regal manner. He exuded confidence and a strong sense of pride, but seldom, if ever, was cocky.
“Coach Newcombe is so modest,” said Gunner Cruz, Casteel’s starting quarterback last season. “He never wants to really talk about his Nebraska days unless it’s to kind of teach us a lesson about something he experienced. But he’ll talk about it if we ask him and it’s the right time and place.
“A lot of us went online, researched him and watched all his highlights. They were crazy to watch.”
Newcombe finished his college career with 2,032 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns.
“I don’t think what I did on the field is as important as my interaction with players and the truth I bring to that relationship,” said the former New Mexico high school football legend, who tries to bring his family to Nebraska once a year because his wife, Rachel, is from Omaha.
Although he hasn’t traveled back to Memorial Stadium to watch a game, he hopes to do that in 2018, Scott Frost’s first season as Nebraska’s head coach.
“Over the years, I’ve had to work two and three jobs just to try to sustain a family here and be in the situation we’re in,” Newcombe said.
As our interview neared its end, he made sure to emphasize one of the qualities he noticed in Frost in 1997, their only season as teammates.
“Scott thought at a lot of levels,” said Newcombe, who was particularly impressed with Frost’s ability to not only manage a game plan, but sense which teammates were best-suited mentally and emotionally to make plays in certain situations.
Sometimes I underestimate the complexities of being a strong leader. There’s a lot to it.
Newcombe has made it a life study.
“I enjoy the concept of developing people,” he said. “I mean, that’s my life's purpose. To make someone else better.”
List of ex-Husker quarterbacks in coaching is rather impressive
When Bobby Newcombe last month became the interim head coach at Casteel High in Queen Creek, Arizona, the 38-year-old brought to mind what's become a rather impressive list of former Nebraska quarterbacks in the coaching business.
Scott Frost, of course, heads the list.
Other ex-Husker quarterbacks making a mark in the coaching world include:
* Turner Gill, head coach, Liberty University.
* Joe Dailey, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks, Liberty University.
* Zac Taylor, quarterbacks, Los Angeles Rams.
* Eric Crouch, running backs, Midland University.
* Terry Luck, passing game coordinator/quarterbacks, Coahulla (Georgia) High School.
* Mike Grant, wide receivers, Wyoming.
* Mickey Joseph, wide receivers, LSU.
* Gerry Gdowski, quarterbacks, Vanderbilt.
* Cody Green, quarterbacks, Missouri Southern.
* Joe Ganz, quarterbacks, Youngstown State.
* Ryan Held, running backs, Nebraska.
* Matt Turman, head coach, Omaha Skutt