Patrick Ochs

Everyone asks this 4-star recruit, ‘Why Auburn?’ He had a lot to say about the Tigers.

Loyalty can be a powerful thing.

When it became clear Daquan Newkirk wasn’t going to qualify out of high school, he almost half expected Auburn to drop him. It happens all the time; teams have to fill signing classes and can’t wait around on someone who isn’t a sure thing.

But the Tigers never wavered.

Now, more than two years after originally verbally committing to Auburn, Newkirk can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and should officially be a Tiger in December.

“Everybody always asks me why Auburn? Put it this way: Coming out of high school I messed up my senior year. Usually when you do that, they know you’re not coming to their program and drop the offer and just give up on you. But Auburn didn’t,” the Mississippi Gulf Coast defensive end said recently. “They stuck with me the whole entire way. They brought me here (to MGCCC), put me in this nice program and gave me a second chance.

“They stuck with me the whole way. That’s loyalty, so why not give it to them back?”

The road to Perkinston

Newkirk was open about the circumstances that led him to Perkinston instead of The Plains.

“My senior year I was doing fine the first semester. Then I got sick and missed a week of school,” he said. “I was going to a college preparatory school (The First Academy in Orlando, Florida) and I got behind. A lot. Like very behind. So I ended up failing one of my semesters and my school didn’t accept me back because they thought I wasn’t going to pass. That’s why I ended up coming here.

“It just feels awesome. It’s been a long journey and I’m finally about to be where I should be. I thank Gulf Coast for everything they’ve done for me.”

Newkirk said he essentially had to get his GED just to enroll at MGCCC. After sitting out last year while he got his grades in order, Newkirk has gotten off to a fast start this season.

Although he was about 235 pounds and considered more of a linebacker or tweener out of high school, Newkirk’s weight has fluctuated since reaching the college ranks. Now at 285 pounds, however, Newkirk’s added bulk hasn’t seemed to slow him down. Heading into Gulf Coast’s 7 p.m. home kickoff against Mississippi Delta on Thursday, the 6-foot-3 defender is third on MGCCC with 28 total tackles. His five tackles for loss lead the Bulldogs.

‘Scared to bite’

As a long-time commit to a SEC power, one would think other schools would be all over Newkirk, trying to poach his commitment from the Tigers. That’s not exactly true, he said.

“Schools are scared to bite,” he said. “I can tell they want to, but they’re like, ‘should we waste an offer on this guy who will possibly go to Auburn?’ They still try here and there, but they don’t do it as much as they did before.”

With his commitment seemingly written in Sharpie, Newkirk plans to officially sign with Auburn in December so that he can go through spring workouts with the Tigers.

Listed as a freshman at MGCCC, Newkirk hopes he can step in and make an impact with Auburn similar to what he has done with the Bulldogs.

“I can do it, I just have to learn the plays. That’s it,” he said. “They know I’m versatile with speed. They know I can move. I have a big frame now. I gained some weight since high school so they may have me at D-tackle or move me to end.

“No telling. I’ll play wherever.”

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs