Nigel Newby, who graduates this year from DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, can trace his journey to become a member of the Catholic Church back to a Little League football field.

“My Little League football coach was a DeMatha graduate, and that made me think of going there,” Newby said. “When I visited, I thought, ‘This is the place for me.’”

During his junior year at the Trinitarian-sponsored school for young men, Newby began preparations to convert to Catholicism.

“It is all due to my theology class,” Newby explained. “I didn’t have the answers to the philosophical questions I had until I took that class.” He credited his theology teacher, Homer Twigg, for inspiring him to consider the Catholic faith.

“I liked the way Mr. Twigg lived his faith and interacted with students and everybody,” Newby said. “He is just awesome, and he is my sponsor.”

In the fall of his senior year, Newby officially began preparing to enter the Church and was scheduled to be baptized and confirmed at the Easter Vigil. “It got delayed because of COVID, so I am waiting,” he said.

While he has not yet officially entered the Church, Newby’s new-found faith has had an effect on him and others. He has volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center because “becoming Catholic moved me to the pro-life movement and putting my faith in action,” and he has inspired his mother to return to her faith. 

“My mom was raised Catholic, and when I started going to church, she went back and started going with me. My mom has been with me all the way through this,” he said.

The son of James and Angela Newby of North Beach, Maryland, Newby and his mother attend St. Anthony Church there.

Ranked in the top five percent of his class, Newby graduates with a weighted 4.4 grade point average. During his  high school career, Newby was a standout linebacker and tight end for DeMatha’s varsity football team and served as co-captain his senior year. He was a percussionist in the school band and the honor band and was inducted into the National Honor Society.

He will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, but not play football. “After two knee surgeries, I thought it was time to hang up my cleats,” he explained. 

Newby said he chose the Ivy League school in Philadelphia because “I think I can get the most of my undergraduate experience there, and they have a really good Catholic community on campus.” He plans to pursue a double major in physics and economics.

“I had trouble picking a major because I had so many good teachers at DeMatha, it was hard choosing a subject I liked most,” he said. “If you want to be a part of a school family and have teachers who will help you, then DeMatha is the place for you because no matter what you are interested in, there is something for everyone.”

Newby said he chose his double major because “I’m really interested in aerospace engineering and I can see myself working at NASA.”

The COVID-19 pandemic not only interrupted Newby’s reception into the faith, but also the end of his high school career.

“Definitely this had not been ideal,” Newby said. “But the teachers and all the faculty at DeMatha have done a great job of transitioning to online (teaching) and keeping us connected. One of the teachers put a sign outside my house that said, ‘Class of 2020.’ That is reassuring to know they are there for us and trying to help us.”