How UNC’s Dazz Newsome went from defender to an offensive threat opponents must fear

Dazz Newsome (19) hauls in a pass against Western Carolina in 2017.
Dazz Newsome (19) hauls in a pass against Western Carolina in 2017. News & Observer file photo

The first time Hampton High School football coach Mike Smith saw Dazz Newsome play, he was about 6 years old.

Smith said he saw the ball snapped six times on offense, special teams and defense. In those six snaps, the young Dazz Newsome scored three times, Smith said.

“He was a little rascal, but he was tough,” Smith recalled.

More than a decade later, Newsome, now a sophomore wide receiver and returner for North Carolina, is starting to do the same things Smith witnessed when Newsome was a child.

After converting from defensive back to receiver, Newsome, at 5-11, 185 pounds, has steadily improved. In the last two games, Newsome has caught 10 passes for 142 yards, two touchdowns, and a 75-yard punt return for a score.

His 28 catches this season are tied for the team lead and he has become one of the Tar Heels’ most explosive weapons on offense and special teams.

“Whenever he has the ball, there’s no doubt in your mind that he’s going to make the first guy miss,” UNC offensive coordinator Chris Kapilovic said. “You expect big things from him, so it’s not surprising for us.”

Junior quarterback Nathan Elliott said he knew it was only a matter of time before Newsome would break out. Elliott said Newsome showed flashes of his potential during his freshman season.

“He’s just got like some God-given talents,” Elliott said. “Some of the things he does, you just can’t coach. I mean he’s so fast, so quick. He’s not that big, but linebackers can’t take him down.”

Newsome, who is from Hampton, Va., comes from a family of football players. His older brother Deon Newsome, was a safety for Virginia Tech from 2014 to 2017. His dad, Myron Newsome, also played for the Hokies, where he was a standout linebacker from 1995 to 1996. His second cousin Marques Hagans, who once played in the NFL, is the wide receivers coach at Virginia.

But Dazz Newsome is the one his family says has the best chance to have a career in the NFL.

‘Always had heart’

Dazz’s toughness came from hanging with his older brother. Deon Newsome was four years older than Dazz. Where Deon was, Dazz wasn’t far behind.

“I roughed him up every day,” Deon Newsome said. “He was always around.”

He recalls getting out of football practice and his little brother, who was about 4 years old at the time, putting on his football equipment.

Dazz Newsome said he would imagine himself playing in a football game.

He wasn’t quite old enough to play yet. But when he wore the oversized shoulder pads and football pants, he imagined himself in a game.

“I’d act like I was getting fake tackled,” Newsome, 19, recalled with a smile.

When he was finally old enough to play the sport, he excelled.

In the neighborhood after school, Dazz would play with the older boys Deon’s age. Dazz was about 30 pounds lighter, but it wouldn’t stop him.

Dazz Newsome said he always wanted to be better than his older brother. They’d compete at everything. If Deon scored seven touchdowns one game, Dazz wanted to score eight.

That competitiveness has continued to drive Dazz, Deon Newsome said.

Their dad, Myron Newsome, agreed.

“He always had heart,” Myron Newosme said. “He was never scared or anything. He’s always been a risky little guy. He always took risks.”

Dazz’s skills continued to show as he got older. He made the junior varsity team at Hampton High School when he was in the eighth grade. He played varsity when he was in the ninth grade. Smith, his high school coach, said he weighed about 115 pounds. And he never backed down.

When Newsome got to UNC, the coaching staff saw his potential as a playmaker. So they decided to convert him to a receiver. They also needed depth and help at slot receiver with Ryan Switzer leaving.