Senior defensive lineman Peyton Newell had only one class Monday afternoon: Fitness 140 Beginning Yoga. He figured he'd be the only 6-foot-3, 300 pound football player in the class that day, but he didn't mind. He was just excited to try something different.
Newell graduated in May with a management degree. He needed to take nine credit hours this fall to be eligible for football, so an advisor suggested he step outside of his comfort zone and take a few courses he wouldn't otherwise have taken.
So, Newell signed up for yoga. He also picked CPR, Family Science and Sociology, all classes very different from his management track.
Yoga isn't new for Newell, though. In his first season with Nebraska in 2014, Lotus House of Yoga owner Mary Clare Sweet was asked to introduce yoga to the football team. The idea belonged to head football trainer Mark Mayer and it proved to be a popular one for the Nebraska players.
So much so, Newell is still a fan of yoga four years later.
"It's so good for your body with flexibility and stretching," Newell said. "It's another part of the recovery process as far as practice."
Yes, Newell views his yoga class as more than just a class this fall. It's another opportunity to help his body recover from football practice. That's the thing about Newell. Everything he does is about balance.
Defensive line coach Mike Dawson has seen it from Day 1 with Newell. He's a hard worker that takes practice seriously every day. He wants to be successful, so he puts in the work.
But Dawson has seen more to Newell than just that. He's also the guy at practice with a big smile on his face, having fun and making jokes (only when it makes sense, of course).
"He's trying to do his best on the field every single day to improve himself, and at the same time I think he understands that you can be well-rounded," Dawson said. "You can be serious, you can be a football guy but at the same time you have a smile on your face and treat people the right way. He's done a good job with both of those."
That balanced approach is why a class like yoga works for Newell. It's something he can have fun with, but something that adds to all the other recovery he's already doing like cold tubs and rolling out on foam rollers.
"Different techniques like that boost the recovery process and it all works because we've come recovered every day," Newell said.
Dawson is glad Newell's found a way to have a little fun in class and off the practice field. He wants players like Newell to find balance in their lives, especially if they've done the hard work and gotten their priorities in order.
"For him to be able to enjoy it and do some different things that he wouldn't ordinarily get a chance to do is really awesome," Dawson said. "For me, I try to warn these guys that this is the best time of your life and it goes by really, really fast. They usually don't figure that out until a few years down the road from now, but if they can enjoy it and have some fun, it's awesome."
Newell has taken that to heart and is enjoying Nebraska's schedule this fall. As a graduate student with a variety of classes he never thought he'd take, he's doing his best to appreciate every moment.
He's also seen improvements in his own life from the new schedule, and prefers morning practices to anything else he's been through so far as a Husker.
"Personally, this is my favorite schedule," Newell said. "You get up, you start the day and you have a full day to recover, go to class, eat the right things, hydrate, watch extra film. Before it was kind of hard, because you had classes in the morning, you'd go to practice and then it was 7 at night. You'd then have study hall and stuff like that."
There isn't a lot of time for much else in Newell's schedule, but he's glad to have found a way to work some fun classes into the mix. And with yoga being one of those classes, his teammates just might learn a thing or two from the defensive lineman.
"I'm going to be the team leader for that one," Newell said with a smile.
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.