HOMER CITY — Mike Newhouse got his legs back.
Now he hopes to keep them healthy and strong for his last high school football season.
Newhouse, one of the top players in the Heritage Conference, has struggled with achy knees from the time he began playing varsity football as a freshman at Homer-Center. He showed up every Friday night, but often by the time the second half rolled around, he was forced to the bench so he could ice his knees. His absence left gaping holes in the Wildcats’ backfield and defense.
The senior running back/linebacker went though a rigorous weight-training program in the offseason to build up his legs.
“I feel great,” he said. “I feel better than I ever have. I had a lot of people helping me get back to where I needed to be. I hit the weight room pretty hard to get my legs built back up so I could get my knees back up their health.”
“Nobody works harder than Mike,” coach Greg Page said. “He’s a good lifter, and he has a good football mentality as far as how to approach the game offensively and defensively. It’s been really unfortunate for him that he’s had some nagging issues, but still the kids say he’s the toughest kid and a leader. And we do need him. He knows this is his last shot, and we’re looking forward to big things from him. I hope he can put it all together this year because, quite honestly, he deserves it.”
The Wildcats need Newhouse on the field. He is an undisputed leader, their main inside running force and the catalyst on defense.
Newhouse rushed for 530 yards and seven touchdowns last season. During his career, he has accumulated 1,363 yards on 260 carries for 5.2 yards per attempt, a healthy average for a back that hits the center of the line.
“He’s just a football player,” Page said. “In addition to his toughness, he has great instincts. He’s one of those kids that when the fire’s lit, he can do a lot of good things. On the flip side, he’s very coachable and understands the certain techniques he has to do at his positions on both sides of the ball. And then you throw all those things together, for us, at this level, we feel he’s a complete football player.”
Gene Raymond, an assistant coach, oversaw Homer-Center’s offseason lifting program. Newhouse and many of his teammates took advantage.
“It doesn’t matter what you do in the offseason, the kids have got to buy in, and they did for the most part,” Page said. “You try to convince them it’s going to lead to the greater good, and they did buy in and worked hard. … The kids saw what they needed to get done and did a nice job with the program.
“We’ll see what it leads to. We have some bigger kids, and they’re in the best shape they’ve ever been in.”
Newhouse also got in a pretty good workout every day over the summer while working on a cattle and pheasant farm. Every chore, from baling hay to feeding the animals to shoveling out stalls and pens, was part of the workout.
“I was always lifting and doing something like carrying buckets to feed all the animals — big garbage cans of feed,” he said. “I was always lifting heavy weight and always on the move. It’s definitely a good workout.
“Every football player should work on a farm. I feel it helped me tremendously. I feel like I was in way better shape when we went into training camp. It’s weightlifting and conditioning at the same time. I like it. Even one of my teammates, Jimmy Bence, he came out a couple times to bale some hay and was telling me that’s some pretty good conditioning. It’s not easy, and it definitely gets you ready for football.”
After all the weight training, the summer job and preseason camp, Newhouse feels like he’s ready to go.
“It feels good,” he said, “and I can’t wait.”