Graduate Austin Newcombe: After a football injury changed his college path, he found success through an NAU statewide location

Austin Newcombe is one step closer to accomplishing his goal of working in sports media and has a lot to celebrate. The path toward earning a degree wasn’t as smooth as planned, but Newcombe overcame personal obstacles and is the first person in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Newcombe is part of the graduating cohort through NAU at Glendale Community College, completing a bachelor of science in communication studies.

A sports enthusiast, Newcombe began his college career with a scholarship to play football in Colorado. He relocated from Arizona to pursue his dreams of playing college football and earning a degree. That plan ended when a concussion sidelined his football career permanently.

He moved back to Arizona and continued his recovery, initially enrolling in courses at Mesa Community College. He earned an associate degree from Glendale Community College, then transferred to NAU and attended classes on the Flagstaff campus before discovering NAU’s communication studies program on the Glendale Community College campus. This weekend, he will become the first person in his family to complete a bachelor’s degree.

“Joining this program has been the best thing that I’ve done in my college career,” he said. “The thing I found most inspiring about the program is the compassion that all the professors in the program have for their students.”

Newcombe said the communication studies faculty supported him every step of the way, which made his journey easier. Marie Baker-Ohler and Douglas Deiss are the two professors with whom he’s had the most classes, and he said they helped him get out of his comfort zone and challenged him to do his best work.

There were times when he doubted whether he would finish his degree.

“I never thought that I would be able to graduate with a bachelor’s, and Dr. Baker-Ohler is making sure that is going to happen,” he said. “They strive for their students to be successful in the classroom, and they push their students, because they see our true potential.”

As part of the cohort through NAU’s statewide location at GCC, he developed close relationships with his faculty and peers. “What I enjoyed most was the sense of family with my colleagues.” The cohort met twice a week each semester as they finished their junior- and senior-level courses. “We all grew together.”

He has exceeded his own expectations. “I enjoyed the multiple academic challenges that my professors presented to me, because they allowed me to show my true work ethic and allowed me to reach higher than I expected.”

Newcombe continues to find joy in football. He is part of the Willow Canyon High School football staff in Surprise, beginning as an intern before being appointed to a coaching position on the junior varsity team and as the video tech coordinator.

“Being a coach has been awesome, because I enjoy sharing my knowledge of the game of football with the next generation,” he said. “If I am not able to play, I’m glad I can coach.”

Looking forward to the future, he hopes to blend his interests in communication and sports.

“I want to work for a professional sports team such as the Cardinals or Suns or even work for a company like the WWE. If I don’t go that route, I would rather try to become a football coach or work for a well-known company such as Apple,” he said. “NAU has helped me tremendously to get ready to reach the goals that I have. Communication is the key fundamental for any type of relationship in the world. Being a communication studies major has helped me prepare for how to communicate more efficiently in an organization.”

Not only has he improved his communication skills, but he has also strengthened his leadership skills.

“NAU has given me the tools and knowledge to learn how to become a better leader,” Newcombe said. “This is helping me prepare so that I can take on a leadership role one day with a company. I know what it takes to be a good and effective leader. If it wasn’t for the NAU at Glendale Community College program, I would have never known how important communication is in an organization, and I wouldn’t be as effective of a leader as I am now.”