Last week, a reporter approached Terence Newman for his thoughts on how it would feel come Sept. 4 — his 40th birthday — when he presumably would be joining Sebastian Janikowski as the 61st and 62nd people to play into their 40s in the 99-year history of the NFL.
The then-Vikings cornerback obliged, but flashed that universal nod for, "Just a minute, pal, I'm busy working here."
Wearing his No. 23 jersey for what would be the last time in his 16th training camp, Newman had pulled aside young teammate Horace Richardson coming off the practice field. Newman, who couldn't beat the 24-year-old in a footrace, was demonstrating the proper footwork the promising pup will need if he wants to make a living playing cornerback.
In hindsight, it's a familiar scene like this — Newman teaching and a young player listening intently — that sums up why Newman became one of coach Mike Zimmer's assistants the moment he retired as one of Zimmer's most beloved players on Saturday.
"I think it's a little bit easier relating to these guys [as a coach] having played for a while," said Newman, who will work with the nickel backs as assistant defensive backs coach. "These guys saw the work you put in. I think at a certain point in time, you get respect and people understand that this guy is still out here after 15 years busting his butt, studying. They know what I brought to the table as a player. I'm going to bring the same tenacity with helping these guys as well."
Zimmer and Newman are going on 10 years and three cities together. Zimmer said he first thought of hiring Newman as a coach two or three years ago. Coaching has intrigued Newman for some time, but he called this season a "trial period" to see if a coach's life is something he wants long-term.
Although Newman's retirement came on roster cutdown day, he said there "probably were more situations where I could have stayed and played."
"But I realized it was time to step away," he said. "I wanted to be done and not have to worry about what if I ever started a family, would I be able to walk or play with my kids? I was cool with it."
Newman got choked up only once during his news conference Monday.
"I've loved this game since the day I played it," he said before pausing, looking down and adding, "but it was my time."
Then again, Newman also left the door open to returning. In fact, if injuries mounted at nickel back, he said, "I wouldn't have a choice. … I would definitely do it, but I hope I don't have to."
That seems unlikely. As for Newman coaching long-term, that has appeared likely for some time.
A year ago, the Vikings had just finished a practice when Newman sat next to a reporter and started talking thoughtfully about the NFL's national anthem crisis.
Mackensie Alexander, a second-year cornerback at the time, came walking by. As young players sometimes do in that situation, Alexander tried to break up the conversation by acting a fool.
Newman gave him that fatherly look, pointed to a nearby chair and said, "Sit down and listen. I want you to hear this."
Alexander doesn't care much for reporters. He's admitted to resisting Zimmer's coaching as a bull-headed rookie. He can be one defiant dude.
But, in this instance, he zipped his lip and sat down. For the next 15 minutes, he looked like a child serving a timeout, listening quietly until Newman nodded to him and said, "Now, tell [the reporter] how you feel about it."
Alexander sat up and did just that. What he said isn't what matters here. What jumped out was how much respect was given to Newman by a rebellious young player with untapped ability.
That's why Newman has what it takes to go smoothly from aging NFL player to rising NFL coach.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: mcraig@startribune.