Patrick Reusse
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Caylin Newton, Cameron’s younger brother, made his first collegiate appearance for Howard University as its quarterback at UNLV on Sept. 2, 2017. That was also the first game as Bison coach for Mike London.

Howard, an FCS school from the MEAC (a league with 11 historically Black colleges), had received a large guarantee to play in Las Vegas. The Bison won 43-40 as 45-point underdogs, with Newton accounting for 330 yards.

“That was the last time Bison athletics were in the national spotlight,” said Chuck Whitlock, a 2015 Howard graduate. “Then we lost our coach a year later. London went to William & Mary.”

Now Caylin Newton is a graduate transfer to Auburn — his brother’s school for one semester and a national championship — with two years of eligibility remaining.

Which is OK, since on Friday morning, an upset much larger than being 45-point underdogs in football fell in Howard’s favor:

Makur Maker, a 6-foot-11, Kenyan-born, much-traveled prep player in Canada and the U.S., made a commitment as a five-star basketball recruit to attend Howard in Washington, D.C.

“I’m ecstatic,” Whitlock said. “We’ve heard about big recruits making visits to Howard, but the idea of getting one of those players — beating out schools like Kentucky — didn’t seem possible.

“Now, I’m just hoping we can get the pandemic under control, so we can have a season.”

Here’s what makes it more phenomenal: Maker’s commitment was landed by Kenny Blakeney, a 48-year-old, first-time head coach who went 4-29 in 2019-20, his first season with the Bison.

Maker visited Howard, apparently was impressed with Blakeney and the atmosphere and clearly motivated by his ability to make a statement through attending a historically Black college in the remarkable time that has followed the death of George Floyd. Makur is a cousin of NBA player Thon Maker and wants this decision to inspire more high-profile recruits to consider historically Black colleges.

Whitlock worked for the Vikings in media relations in 2016-17. He’s now in Redondo Beach, Calif., and has two jobs: game day operations for NFL Media and NBA-related social media for Bleacher Report.

“Howard got me started on this path,” he said. “I love my school.”

PLUS THREE

• Makur Maker will be appearing on ESPN’s shows throughout the day Thursday, where he will “fully explain” the decision to choose Howard.

• Whitlock’s fondness for Howard isn’t unique with his Cleveland family. Two sisters, Na’Ziya (sophomore in biology) and Andreyon (incoming freshman), will be there this school year.

• Notre Dame is scheduled to visit Howard on Jan. 18. Blakeney was an assistant for Notre Dame’s Mike Brey when he coached at Delaware.