Mac Engel

An all-time Cowboys’ draft pick makes his first title game

At age 39, Minnesota Vikings cornerback Terence Newman is playing in his first NFL conference championship game.
At age 39, Minnesota Vikings cornerback Terence Newman is playing in his first NFL conference championship game. AP

His name will never be unveiled in the Ring of Honor, and there’s a 144 percent chance you celebrated his release, but Terence Newman is one of the best draft picks of the Dallas Cowboys of the 21st century.

Newman was a part of the same draft class that produced current Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. Witten has played 239 NFL games, and Newman 221.

The only difference is the Cowboys gave up on Newman.

T-New is 39 years old, and on Sunday, he will play in his first conference title game — for the Minnesota Vikings.

Thirty nine.

He is the third-oldest, non-special-teams player in the NFL, behind Tom Brady (40), and New England Patriots linebacker James Harrison.

The irony is when first-year coach Bill Parcells and the Cowboys selected Newman with the fifth overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, one of the main concerns was his age. At 25, he was an old rookie.

“You know, I had never thought about it until you just said it,” Newman said in a phone interview this week. “When you get to this point, I don’t think guys who play this long ever really think about playing this long. It’s just something that they do.”

Newman fell into that DeMarcus Ware category where the Cowboys felt the price was too much.

After the 2011 season, the Cowboys cut Newman because of salary cap concerns, and fears of injury in advancing age.

Nailed that one.

Like Ware, Newman still had good ball in him.

“I knew why the decision was made, and I knew that there were things that were correctable,” Newman said. “I knew if I could get into the right place, and with the right person, it would be OK. And that happened. When I got with Zim’, that was it. I know guys who play their best ball under Zim’.”

Newman speaks of current Vikings head coach, and former Cowboys defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer.

After the Cowboys cut Newman, Zimmer was the defensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals and he convinced head coach Marvin Lewis to sign Newman.

Newman was a starting cornerback on some decent teams in Cincinnati for the next three years.

When Zimmer was hired to be the head coach in Minnesota, he brought Newman with him.

Year after year, young guys come in and they still can’t beat out the old guy. Even as a vested veteran player whose price tag is considerably higher than the young talent, a good NFL team would rather pay Newman.

Newman was a starter in his first year with the Vikings in 2015, and in each of the past two years he’s been the nickel-and dime-corner, and spot starter. Zimmer has used Newman as a safety, too.

He is not some aging bum stealing NFL checks. Newman played all 16 games, started seven, and according to Pro Football Focus, opposing passers compiled a 76.7 passer rating against him (that’s terrible for a passer).

He picked off another pass this season, giving him at least one interception in all of his 15 NFL seasons.

He’s been so good the NFL has repeatedly drug-tested him this season.

The only mark missing from his résumé is what he is doing today. Like so many of his former Cowboys and Bengals teammates, he was never on a team that did a thing in the playoffs.

Prior to this season, Newman played in eight postseason games, winning one — with the Cowboys in the wild-card round against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2009 season. He has, however, been a part of some of the most spectacular playoff losses in recent memory.

He was on the Cowboys team that lost in the ’06 playoffs in Seattle, the infamous Tony Romo bobbled snap game. Newman was part of the Cowboys team that blew home-field advantage in the playoffs in ’07 and lost to the New York Giants in the divisional round.

He was on the Vikings team that lost by one point at home against the Seahawks in the 2015 playoffs when Minnesota’s kicker missed a short field goal that would have won the game.

Few guys deserved the Minneapolis Miracle — the walk-off, game-winning touchdown pass to beat the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Round — more than Newman.

“I was standing on the sideline and I was like the rest of us, just trying to get a better view of it,” Newman said. “That is something that I could not just believe happened. It was something else.”

As a result, after all of these years, all of these games, he’s finally in a position to play in a Super Bowl.

“I don’t think that it was something that defined me if I didn’t get there. I don’t. Because when you play this game you realize there are things you can’t control,” he said.

“Am I glad that I am here and playing in it? Absolutely, but even if I had not played in this game, or a Super Bowl, it’s not something that was going to define me.”

Newman still makes his home in Uptown Dallas, where he is quite content living in the off-season, and he plans to live there full time, he says, when his career is over.

But the career isn’t over. He has another game to play. He has not ruled out another season.

Although he might never have his name in the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor, Terence Newman is one of the best draft picks the team made this century.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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