Free State defensive lineman Tai Newhouse commits to Tulsa football during visit

photo by: Mike Gunnoe

Free State's Tai Newhouse takes down Olathe West's Alex Birge for a fumble Friday night at FSHS on Sept. 6, 2019.

There was no need for Free State defensive lineman Tai Newhouse to wait until his visit was over. He knew what he had to do.

After not getting the opportunity to see college campuses last year due to COVID-19, it didn’t take long for Newhouse to fall in love with everything the University of Tulsa had to offer. He posed for photos while wearing their football uniform and got a good look at all the facilities during his tour.

Before the visit was even over, Newhouse announced his verbal commitment to play football for Tulsa after he graduates in 2022.

“Everything kind of just lined up,” Newhouse said. “To be honest, I figured I was going to go here to begin with. I just thought it would be best to commit right then and there and just get it out of the way.”

“It was just an amazing feeling putting on their uniform and taking pictures,” Newhouse added. “Getting to meet Division I football coaches. I was just really surprised how genuine they were.”

One of those coaches is actually why Newhouse had an inkling that he’d eventually commit to Tulsa.

Jesse Williams, who has coached at the collegiate level for 32 years, joined the Tulsa staff to coach the defensive line back in February after spending the 2020 season as an assistant for the Free State football program.

Newhouse, who first met Williams last summer, admitted that he left a lasting impact in just one year.

“He was able to show me just stuff on the fly,” Newhouse said. “He’d be able to explain a week’s worth of film just walking down the ramp like a day before a football game. So he’s able to break down stuff extremely easily, and in a way that I can understand.”

Williams was the first person to call Newhouse when he got hired in February, and that’s when the recruiting process really began.

In a lot of ways, Tulsa made too much sense for Newhouse. It checked all the boxes for him. It was a Division I program, but also a place he felt he could compete for playing time right away. It was close to home, and he felt completely comfortable with the coaching staff right away.

“It’s really the coaching staff that sold me,” Newhouse said. “They were talking about for recruiting defensive line this year, they were only taking four defensive linemen. One of them from high school and three from JUCO. So it was really good to be that one high school player.”

According to Rivals, Tulsa is the only Division I program to offer Newhouse at this point in the process. But the 6-foot-3, 285-pound defensive lineman has garnered plenty of interest already after a stellar junior season.

During an abbreviated six-game season in 2020, Newhouse recorded 30.5 total tackles for the Firebirds. He netted 23 solo stops and tallied one tackle-for-loss while playing both on the interior and on the edge.

As a sophomore, Newhouse was strictly used as a nose guard. But he demonstrated more versatility as a junior and even played on the other side of the ball as an offensive tackle.

“I think I got a lot more athletic,” Newhouse said of his growth as a junior. “I think you can tell if you watch those games back. Obviously (I got) a lot stronger.”

Newhouse hopes to continue that trajectory into his final year as a Firebird. He’s spending the summer watching a lot of film and trying to become more knowledgeable about the game and what he needs to do to keep improving as a player.

“For me, it’s really just to get as good as I possibly can be,” Newhouse said. “Just try my best. It’s really as simple as that.”


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