Ansonia’s Arkeel Newsome picks UConn

Arkeel Newsome runs for a touchdown in the 2012 Class S title game at Rentschler Field. (SPB)

Arkeel Newsome runs for a touchdown in the 2012 Class S title game (SPB)

Arkeel Newsome, Ansonia

Arkeel Newsome, Ansonia

Ansonia’s Arkeel Newsome, one of the most prolific tailbacks in Connecticut history, has verbally committed to play at the University of Connecticut.

“It’s a relief,” Newsome said. “Now I can focus on on my senior year and my academics.”

[Read more: Ansonia’s Arkeel Newsome picks UConn (With photos)]

Newsome said he informed UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni of his decision late Wednesday afternoon. UConn had offered the all-state back a scholarship last year and Newsome acknowledged that UConn continued to push hard for him to join the Huskies.

“They were real focused on me, trying to get me to commit there,” said Newsome, who said he also had offers from UMass and Syracuse, but interest from about a dozen other schools. “They were saying they wanted me to be their main guy.”

Newsome also said the chance to play close to home, where his family could easily attend games, factored into the decision.

“Playing for my home state, it’ll be a good feeling,” said Newsome, who grew up both a UConn and Florida fan. “It’s close and my family come down and see me any time at home games.”

Newsome said Pasqualoni was pleased with the decision. “(Pasqualoni) told me to now start focusing on my academics, getting my GPA and SAT scores up,” Newsome said.

A three-year starter, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Newsome has run for 6,818 yards, an average of 11.2 yards per carry, and 108 touchdowns in his three-year career.

As a junior, he ran for 2,245 yards and 38 touchdowns during a season in which he missed a small portion of the season due to an ankle injury.

As a sophomore, he was one of the top 5 runners in the nation with 3,763 yards and 58 touchdowns. MaxPreps named him a sophomore All-American.

He holds the state career record of 118 touchdowns and is on pace to break the state career records for rushing yards and scoring. Former Ansonia RB Alex Thomas, who starred at Yale, is the state record holder with 8,279 yards and 747 points. Newsome needs 1,462 yards to catch Thomas.

Behind Newsome, Ansonia has gone 28-0 and won two consecutive state championships over the last two seasons.

He was the 2012 Connecticut Post Athlete of the Year and a two-time All-Hearst Connecticut and All-Connecticut Walter Camp team selection.

“Obviously it’s a great thing for Arkeel and his family,” Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said. “From a UConn standpoint, any time you can land best player in the state of Connecticut it’s a great thing for the University.”

Newsome is the second-consecutive Ansonia back to make UConn his college choice. His former teammate Montrell Dobbs verbally committed to the Huskies in 2011, but wound up at Milford Academy and, later, committed to Temple. Dobbs is no longer enrolled at Temple.

Video: Arkeel Newsome breaks career TD record

Sean Patrick Bowley