NY Jets offensive lineman Xavier Newman was the unsung hero of Sunday's Week 8 win over the New York Giants. The recent practice squad addition was elevated to the game-day roster less than 24 hours before kickoff and little did anyone know how significant of a role he would play in that game.
Newman was thrust onto the field following an injury to center Connor McGovern. The former Tennessee Titans lineman was inserted into the game at right guard but was forced to move over to center following another injury, this time to Wes Schweitzer.
All of a sudden, Newman, who had almost exclusively played guard and a little tackle in his high school, college, and NFL career, was playing center at the NFL level for the first time.
The Jet Press caught up with Newman after Sunday's game to discuss his background and everything that we saw unfold in Week 8.
Our full conversation can be seen by clicking this link or by clicking on the embedded video below. He did drop one piece of information that put everything that happened on Sunday into perspective.
Xavier Newman helped save the game for the NY Jets on Sunday
Newman told The Jet Press that he had never snapped to quarterback Zach Wilson prior to Sunday's game. He mentioned that he had played a little bit of scout team center in practice, but when Newman was suddenly inserted into the game at center on Sunday, that was the first time he had ever snapped to Wilson.
It showed, too. Newman and Wilson botched the first exchange, leading to a Giants takeaway. Newman bounced back after that, and the two developed a notable synergy as the game went on.
The success Newman found is honestly remarkable, given the circumstances. He was playing a position he had rarely played before at any level, snapping to a quarterback he had never snapped to in the pouring rain while matching up with one of the best defensive tackles in football.
Newman explained how he prepared for and stay composed in an unenviable situation like that.
"It just comes down to preparing during the week. You just have to prepare like a starter just in case you're going to get in. I feel like I did prepare like I needed to. Obviously, it wasn't an ideal situation, but I was just going back to my training and everything I prepared for during the week."- Xavier Newman
Newman was thrust into the spotlight for one critical play near the end of the game. With 17 seconds remaining in regulation, Zach Wilson found Allen Lazard over the middle of the field for a 30-yard completion.
But with time ticking down, the Jets had roughly seven or so seconds to get up to the line of scrimmage, get set, and spike the ball. Newman was tasked with checking with the side judge to confirm the spot, allowing the umpire to quickly come in and spot the ball.
If Newman doesn't check with the side judge, the umpire would've been forced to place the ball himself. Instead, the ball was already in the right spot, which allowed the umpire to simply touch the ball. The Jets spiked the ball with one second remaining. They quite literally didn't have time to spare.
Newman explained his thought process and everything that went down on the field during that play.
"I was just running down the field, looking at the side judge, trying to time up where he was going to be standing. I knew that's where the ball was going to be spotted. I was doing what I could to put my team in a position to still win the game. It goes back to training, preparing, and going over situational football with the coaches."- Xavier Newman
Newman had the awareness in that moment to check with the side judge and essentially save the game for the Jets. Given his inexperience at the position, that's a remarkable feat for the young offensive lineman.
Who knows what the future holds for Newman and the Jets, but for at least one day, he deserves to be given his flowers.