Jamie Newberg doesn’t look much different today than that fresh-faced kid that showed up in Atlanta nearly 20 years ago to embark on what turned out to be unlikely career in college football recruiting. But his youthful appearance belies the slings and arrows and pitfalls he has survived to reach the pinnacle of the business.
Today Newberg, 42, is a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He laughs when recalling how it all began.
“Growing up in the Tampa-St. Pete area, I was always a huge Bucs’ fan,” said Newberg, a graduate of the University of South Florida. “In those days, all you had to look forward to was the draft. So that’s kind of how I got started, following and keeping up with all the players the Bucs might draft. I fell in love with it.”
Back home in St. Pete after college, Newberg said he was the typical 22-year-old. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said. “One of my friends in college had a job at SportsSouth. He said he could get me an internship working as a production assistant. So I packed up my car and moved to Atlanta the next day.”
One of Newberg’s first gigs at SportSouth was to assist recruiting expert Forrest Davis with his new recruiting TV show. Newberg’s job was to scramble around and try to find videotape and/or film on the prospects Davis — one of the pioneers in the business — planned to discuss on the show. That was no small task in the pre-Internet days.
“It was brutal,” Newberg says with a chuckle. “I still remember making all these lists on paper and dividing them by markets and states. I would call affiliates begging for one-minute of footage on some guy they might not have even heard of. It’s a lot easier nowadays.”
What started out as a one-time, experimental call-in show ended up running on Fox Sports South for years. And after four months Newberg went from being a low-paid intern to a low-paid full-time production assistant. Eventually he moved in front of the camera and Newberg has been at the forefront of the recruiting game ever since.
In 1996, Newberg launched the magazine BorderWars, followed shorly by a website of the same name. Focusing only on Southeastern football, the website quickly became the most popular of its kind.
“It was all because of the Internet,” said Newberg, who lived in Atlanta for 13 years. “What we do is evaluate and track players. It’s about spreading information. There is no better way to do that than the world-wide web. It really started blowing up in the late-90s. Pretty soon the 900-numbers and the magazines became dinosaurs.”
Newberg said his first website got 80,000 page views his first year in 1997. By 2001, it got 2 million on signing day alone.
Since then Newberg has been bought out and repackaged so many times he’s lost count. He traded his BorderWars site to Rivals.com for stock and lost it all when the company went belly-up in 2001. Newberg was then a charter member of Scout.com — then Insiders.com — and was with that group until the spring of 2008 when he went back to Rivals.com.
In between have come two children, two marriages and umpteen addresses. Today Newberg lives in St. Petersburg with his second wife and one child with another one on the way. And he still loves what he’s doing.
“It’s definitely been a rollercoaster, but it’s been great,” said Newberg, who also hosts “Inside the Huddle; Recruiting Edition” on Comcast Southeast Sports (CSS). “The best part about this job is you get to know these guys in high school and you want them to do well in college and beyond that. I think the first players I tracked were Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks. I remember talking to them as high school kids. Now those guys are trying to keep their NFL careers going.”
If they’re anything like Newberg, they’ll keep them going, too.