Valley Preps

Jordan hires Justin Newman as new football coach

David Mitchell

Jordan High has hired Justin Newman as its new head football coach, athletic director Tony Dimitri confirmed on Monday.

Newman’s recommendation has already been confirmed by the Muscogee County school district.

Over the holidays in December, Newman was in town and heard the job had opened. He contacted Dimitri to express his interest and sat down with him and principal Alton White.

“He came in and sat down with us for a bit,” Dimitri said. “Some of the stuff he said about the classroom, his philosophy, all that was the biggest thing. … I’ve known him a bit before, and he’s done a good job of leading kids. The hardest thing is to get the kids to buy in, and he’s been able to do that.”

It was his vision for the program that won the school over.

Newman sees the tradition of the school, despite its lack of prominence within the city. While it is often overshadowed by football programs like Carver or baseball programs like Columbus, Newman said there were proud alumni who are excited about building the athletic programs at the school. Like Tom Hermann’s “H-Town Takeover” for the Houston football program in Texas that reinvigorated its fanbase, Newman envisions a C-Town Takeover to get Red Jackets excited about their programs again.

“There’s great tradition and alumni,” he said. “Columbus is a hotbed. Anyone can be good with the right message.”

It starts off the field, Newman said. There was already vast improvement in that area under former coach Jim Brown, and Newman said he believed his approach would help foster even more growth.

“The big thing is to get them to buy in to being more accountable for themselves,” he said. “They need to focus on the little things, not just with football but in the classroom. I think they’re close, and I feel like I can make that difference.”

This is Newman’s first head coaching job in football, but he was a head coach for Pacelli baseball in the past and is currently the Wheeler County baseball coach.

He is a Shaw graduate whose latest position in football was as the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Wheeler County High under former Pacelli coach Randy Grace. In their first season at the school, Grace and Newman directed the Wheeler County offense to its most productive season in recent history, more than doubling its total production from 2014.

Newman praised Grace’s ability to turn around struggling programs, a skill he feels like he’s become adept at, as well. He believes he is stepping into a similar situation at Jordan.

“Randy Grace — everywhere he’s gone, he’s taken over programs in a similar situation,” he said. “I’ve been a part of two of them. They always get better. I’ve seen it, and I know how it works.

Newman has also spent time as an assistant at Shaw, Pacelli, Carver and Schley County.

He is the son of former Shaw coach Scott Newman and got his start with the Raiders in 2008. While at Shaw, the younger Newman held positions ranging from offensive line coach, co-offensive coordinator, junior varsity and freshman head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator.

As a student at Shaw, he played for former coach Charles Flowers. He graduated in 2002 and was a member of the 2000 team that went 15-0 and won the Class 4A state championship.

After high school, he attended Georgia State on a baseball scholarship and briefly spent time within the Cincinnati Reds organization before a torn hamstring ended his career.

Dimitri said that Newman’s time spent playing and coaching for such successful individuals was another reason they were confident in his ability.

“His background,” Dimitri said. “He’s been around some good coaches. I think he brings a lot of knowledge to this. He’s got a lot of energy.”

Newman fills a position that came open after Jordan elected to move on from former coach Jim Brown following the 2015 season. Brown coached the Red Jackets for four seasons, 2012-15, guiding them to an 8-32 overall record. They went 0-10 in 2012, improved to two wins in 2013 and three in 2014, but stalled at 3-7 in his final season.

Newman will meet with his new team on Friday, but said it hasn’t been determined when he would join Jordan on a full-time basis.