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Behind the NFL Lines: Marshall Newhouse

Photographs by Chad Griffith
Styling by Marisa Ellison

When you look at an NFL player’s resume and see several teams listed, you might think that player has been clawing his way at every stop to stay in the league. But Marshall Newhouse, the newest member of the offensive line for the Buffalo Bills has been a starter at each of his four previous teams, making the playoffs multiple times and winning the Super Bowl once. For Newhouse, a man with continuous intellectual curiosity about the world, he wouldn’t have designed his NFL career any other way.

In addition to being an offensive lineman, you’re a bit of a tech entrepreneur. How did you get interested in the tech industry?
I’ve been in tech my whole life. My Dad is a computer programmer, so that’s how I got started. When I was a kid, I started building PCs and I was into computer pc gaming— the whole culture. It wasn’t until two years ago when I recognized that this is an avenue you can invest in or make a business out of, and that’s when it became real to me. It’s been cool to see how many opportunities are out there, just learning so much about that space.

OK, let’s take a step back. You were building computers when you were a kid?
(Laughs) Yeah, I help my dad build PCs. You’d get all the components from the store, and you put everything together, and then you would build a case for it.  We had homemade PCs in our house. We never really went and bought a Dell or went to the store to buy one. We just made our own.

So what the first PC that you built? Can you describe it?
It was probably a mess (laughs). It was always slow. That was back when you only had Windows 97, but it was fun. Especially now, seeing where computers are today. You realize that it’s like building with Legos, and you just kind of experimenting a little bit. I was like maybe seven or eight years old.  I mean, we had dial-up back then, so it was a different world.We would have PCs crash, and it was like, “OK, do we build the next one, or are we going to fix it?”

What parts of technology now interests you the most as you’re becoming an entrepreneur?
I’m really into gaming. I’m really big into health tech, especially being an athlete. So I’ve always been aware of what goes into my body, and how my body works with my job. I’m also a food guy, so I like food tech. There’s a whole avenue of food innovations and there will be 20 different branches of things that you don’t even realize are involved in tech.

How much tech do you use as an athlete?
I use quite a bit. There were things that I was an early adopter on. I’ve done things like worn a ring or a band that tracks your sleep, things that track your heart rate. I’ve done blood tests to find out different deficiencies I might have. So if I could get myself a little bit better, a little bit healthier, I’ll be an early adaptor on it.

You’ve had a pretty unique NFL career in that you’ve played on four teams in seven years, but you’ve started on all of those teams and you’ve won on a number of different teams like we. Would you say that your career is a little different than most?
I would say so, yeah. My rookie year, I was drafted by the Green Bay Packers and we won the Super Bowl that year. The next year, I thought we were even better. We started the season 13-0 and we lost in the playoffs.  I’m on my fifth team now with Buffalo, and I’ve got 100-plus games, and 70 as a starter. I realize that my route was different than a lot of people’s for whatever reason. Some guys get drafted, sign an extension, and they’re at a place for seven, eight years. I was in Green Bay for three, and then after that, it’s been a lot of different stops, and I’m okay with that. I’ve enjoyed the whole process. I’ve lived in a bunch of different places, met a lot of people, all the staffs and teams, so it’s just been a joy for me, and I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can.

As a guy who seems analytical in terms how you approach things, I would imagine it’s a unique opportunity, because the NFL is so rigid. So if you are only on one team, it’s like, “This is how we do things.”
For sure.

So to be able to have different coaches, different teammates, your learning curve must have been a lot different than most players.
You have to be adaptable. I’ve been in six different offenses. The verbiage is different in all of them. How they approach the day to day is different. For some people, that’s too much change. But I just leaned into it. I embraced it. It’s been fun for me. I see all kinds of ways to have success. Is it hard when you switch systems? Sure, it’s like learning a new language. There’s an initial learning curve. The offense I’m in now has completely different words. Conceptually, a lot carries over from team to team. There’s not a lot of new under the sun in football. So once you figure out the words and the why of the coaches installing these plays, then things start to become clear with each new offense, because there’s not a whole lot new.

What are you looking forward to the most about Buffalo?
It’s a young team, and a really cool football-loving city, so that will be really exciting. They went to the playoffs for the first time last year in something like 17 years. So there’s just a lot of excitement, and a lot of potential doubt—I enjoy proving people wrong. So being on a team that could prove people wrong is appealing to me.

Despite your experience, is it unusual to enter a team with a rookie quarterback?
It is! They just drafted Josh Allen. That’s the future of the team. But it will be new. My prior four teams had a veteran established quarterback—Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton, Eli Manning and Derek Carr. And so this is the first time it will be with, you know, an unproven younger guy even if it’s AJ McCarron, he hasn’t played that many snaps. So that’ll be a different dynamic for sure.

Do you like playing in the cold weather?
It doesn’t bother me. It’s funny, when I first moved to Green Bay, people were like, “Are you sure you’re ready for this?” In college, I played in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming. So even then, I was prepared for it. But top of that, I’m a big guy (Laughs). We’ve got layers. To me, playing in the cold is an advantage; I really enjoy it.

You’re also very involved in mentoring. How do you go about doing it?
There are times back home, if I get a group of kids in football camp or an afterschool program, it’s an opportunity for me to impart some of my experiences on them. I like mentoring young black men. There’s often times not a lot of active role models in their lives, or guys who can give them advice and lead them in life. And so I enjoy doing stuff like that, even on my teams among younger players. I went through a lot behind the scenes mentally and emotionally, and sometimes it’s taboo to speak about because you’ve got to be this big tough guy. I try to impart on that there are ways to handle things, t to be a professional and fight through the adversity that you’re going through, whether it’s physical adversity, injuries, or if it’s mental or emotional. I try to help because I don’t think I had that from a player’s standpoint when I was younger.

Last year was a really weird year for NFL. You had some players kneeling for the anthem. There was a variety of responses to that. The President of the United States was fighting with players on Twitter. Was it uncharted territory for you guys as athletes to be in this kind of public debate?
Totally, there is still a sense of people feeling a certain way about it, but not knowing how to go about it because you’re balancing job security, right?  We’re grown men, and you want to be outspoken about things that you’re fighting for—righteous things, good things in the world. But you’re also like, all right, this is a business that we’re in, and every little bit of leverage that teams or ownership can use against you may keep you out of a job. There are prime examples of that right now. And so players are balancing this because whatever I might say could be potentially putting my job at risk, but I also feel compelled to say it because this feels right. I feel that there are other people who will be on the wrong side of history, and so I feel a need to say something or do something. Itkind of goes back to the commoditization of what we do and how we’re seen as interchangeable pieces and commodities as athletes.

How so?
We’re often lost as men with emotions, men with thoughts and perspectives. And we’re seeing more of people saying, “Hey, just play football. That’s what you do. Play football.” As if you don’t have much more to add to the conversation. We’re treated more like commodities then human beings.

It also seems like your self awareness of this may be driving you to diversify what you’re interested in, so  that you’re not putting all of your eggs in the NFL basket.
F
or sure. I consider myself fortunate that my cousin Robert Newhouse played in the NFL for 10 years, so I was around him a lot growing up.  My dad also played college football. Being around them reminded me that football is a blessing. If you love it, you should pursue it. But it’s such a short, short part of the rope of your entire life, and whether you play for 20 years or not, it’s still a small part of your life. So when I was younger, I wasn’t preparing for business. But as I got in the NFL, I’ve been preparing for the things that I am passionate about. What do I want to do that isn’t football? Because one day, my day to day of waking up, eating breakfast in the football cafeteria, stretching, working out and going to practice is going to be different, just like that. Overnight. I don’t know when that will be, but overnight, it will be different. So it’s about figuring out what am I doing with some purpose outside of football that will sustain me for the rest of my life. That’s the other thing about being seen as commodities. The guys have so many different interests and talents outside of football, and people don’t really get to see.

The other weird part of it is that when you do talk about other things as an athlete, it’s like, “Why are you talking about this? You’re an athlete.”
There’s this weird kind of rope-a-dope cycle where they put a microphone in our face, you give a very subdued, clichéd answer because you don’t want to upset anyone, and then they’re like, “Oh, he’s boring. Give us more.” And then when you say something that’s from the heart or that’s genuine, they’re like, “Whoa! Whoa!” So it’s like, all right, what exactly do you want out of us?

Has the tenor of the dialogue on social media changed in the last year after all this? Have you noticed your interactions with the public change?
Mine personally? No. But I do notice it. on social media so I follow that stuff. But I try to keep a balance. I limit how much I engage with all that stuff, but yeah, there’s just been a different temperature as far as whether it’s politically or socially, how people were interacting and engaging. And sometimes it’s so ugly, it’s a waste of my emotional energy. That platform gives people a false sense of security or a false sense of reality. It’s like, I’m speaking this way to this other person that if they are face to face with me, these words in this way will not come out of my mouth. It’s this weird fourth dimension of dialogue. You’re not treating me like a person, like someone who’s sitting across from you. You’re treating me like I’m only this Avatar or Twitter handle, and that’s not the case. But when you go down a thread, you are like, all right that person is talking crazy to that person, and they have no idea. So I need to sit back, because this is not real. I need to go be around people.

Do you still game online as well?
Yes, I did a little of the Fortnite thing. I’ve always been into games. Counter-Strike, Madden, college football…

Do you game anonymously or do people know that they are playing against an NFL player?
I wouldn’t say that I do it anonymously by design. It’s more of an escape for me.

Who is the NFL’s best Madden player?
I couldn’t say for sure. One guy who is really good is Snacks, Damon Harrison of the Giants. I never played him, but he’s really good. We should have a big tournament with all of the NFL players.

Lastly, you mentioned you are a food guy. Does that mean you like to cook, or you just like to eat?
I love to eat, but I love to cook as well. I helped my mom cook growing up. My dad is a barbecue guy; he likes to smoke meats all day. And then I just watched the food shows nonstop since I was seven years old. The old Food Network shows, the really good ones. I love the origins of where cuisine comes from, and eating new stuff, trying new things. I like making one-pot stuff, like a good stew. There’s something about having a hearty meal in one pot, or just a nice roasted chicken that’s cooked perfectly. It’s good for me. I’ve had to cook for myself for a while now. Every man should know how to feed himself.

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