Revisiting a Thanksgiving classic

November, 23, 2011
11/23/11
3:40
PM ET
Nate Newton Brian Bahr /Allsport Nate Newton is an eater on Thanksgiving. "You know how you have a serving platter? I eat off of that. A plate's too small."
A very Happy Thanksgiving to all. Hope you have a great day enjoying family, fun, food and football.

As always, I’m particularly thankful for having such a great group of NFC South readers. You’re dedicated, you’re passionate, you’re smart football fans and you keep my traffic numbers rolling.

As noted above, fun, food and football are important on this day. With all of that in mind, I’m going to share a post that involves all of those.

What I’m about to share is one of the most entertaining and fun interviews that ever has taken place in the NFL. It happened the day before Thanksgiving in 1999 in Charlotte.

Back then, Nate Newton who spent most of his career in Dallas, was finishing it up with the Carolina Panthers. For those who are too young or don't remember, he was a very large offensive guard. And, as you're about to hear, food was very important to him in those days. Times change and people change. Newton had surgery in 2010 to help him lose weight. He does radio for ESPN Dallas and those who knew him in his playing days, say he now looks like a completely different person.

In his year in Carolina, though, Newton wasn't all that conscious of his weight. As I recall, it was a slow day in the locker room, as it often was during the forgettable tenure of coach George Seifert.

Most of the Panthers were hiding in the players’ lounge, but Newton happened to walk into the locker room. I can’t remember if the media approached him, but I have a vague recollection that Newton, a very chatty guy, initiated the conversation and went into great detail describing how Thanksgiving worked at "The Newton Crib."

I’m also extremely thankful to Darin Gantt, one of the many fine writers and friends who covered the Panthers back in the day, for somehow saving the transcription of this interview. Darin is pretty sure he still has the tape of this one. When he finds it, I'm going to make a special trip to Charlotte to listen to it because I don't think the written word quite does this justice.

I’ve cleaned up the transcript slightly because Nate’s language sometimes was a little rough and I’ve also cut it down a good bit because the interview went on for about 40 minutes. Grab a knife and fork and dive into the highlights:

(Newton talking about what it was like when he was with the Cowboys, who routinely played on Thanksgiving): “We would do it twice. We would do it before the game. Eat and go to the game. The game's over at 7 o'clock, so everybody's ready to eat again. So we would go home and do it again.’’

(Newton then really got into the food aspect): “I like collard greens, then I like the turkey, but it's got to be cooked right. Usually we have a fried turkey. At my house, we would have fried turkey. My mother-in-law would come in and we'd have gumbo, and ham, fried chicken. Winn-Dixie liked us, because we came in and hit every shelf.

“It wasn't like some people, who say 'We're having ham this year, or turkey.’ We'd have two different types of turkey, we'd have a baked turkey and a fried turkey. Then we'd have a ham, and we'd have the gumbo and we'd have fried chicken, two or three different kinds of stuffings and salads and dressing. That day's like the Mardi Gras for us.

(Newton was asked if potatoes were on the menu) “Potatoes? Oh yeah, dog. Mashed potatoes, baked, we do it all, bro. In the Newton crib, we break it down.’’

(Some top-secret dining strategy): “I don't eat with the crowd — I'm more of the entertainer. Make sure everybody's got what they need, I'm talking most of the time, having fun, messing with the kids. Then at the end of the day my wife would have me a big plate. Not a plate, I would eat off a platter. You know how you have a serving platter? I eat off of that. A plate's too small.

(At one point, former Carolina media relations assistant Bruce Speight, now the director of media relations for the Jets walked up and Newton got off the topic of food for just a few seconds)?
“You need me dog, or you just making sure I ain't gonna say too much bad (stuff)? A lot of people don't like when I cuss, but it's my interview.

(Then, back to food): Man, when I walk into my house, it's going to be so smelly, and warm and rosy. You know what I'm saying? The food and spices and the food. I break into a sweat.

(No question prompted this part, but read it carefully because it might be the best part of the interview): “See, you all eat. I enjoy food. I feel food. You know what I'm saying? I feel the texture when it goes down. You all are sitting there, 'I've got to eat to stay alive.’ Food is more than just staying alive, bro. Think about it, think about it.

“The different textures of fried chicken. You bite into the chicken and it's crunchy, but then you get into the meat and it's smooth and kind of chewy. And if you cook it just right, especially the breast, if you cook it just right, when you bite into it and feel the crunchiness, and then you feel the smoothness of the pure meat, and then the juices just come off of that meat. And then it goes down and you take a cold swig of that beer. Oh man! You’re like “Whoa.'''

(At this point, Newton got away from Thanksgiving, and on to eating in general): “Or if you're sitting back eating a hot dog. I don't know what you all like to put on a hot dog, but I like to just fill mine up with everything. Then you just try to eat the whole hot dog and stuff your mouth and try to get your throat as dry as you can, then BOOM, you hit it with a fresh soda or Sprite or something. Then the Sprite makes your mouth fizz up, you're like ‘Whoa that feels good going down.’’’

Enjoy your dinner and your day.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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