May 31, 2021

Just BU4U: Former Gamecock football player uses past struggles to help others

black alumni

By: Chardonnay Ismail

Former Gamecock football player Syvelle Newton is using his past struggles with mental health to be a champion for others.

(TW: suicide)

“I went through a series of mental health issues like anxiety and depression,” he said. “I didn’t know until I met with a therapist that I had GAD [generalized anxiety disorder]. Once I went through years of counseling and trying to get myself together, I really just wanted to be a person who could stand up and fight for others when they struggle.”

The loss of two teammates to suicide spurred his desire to act.

“I suffered for a long series of being in that same space. I was with Kenny [McKinley] the weekend before we lost him, and we were in the same state of mind,” Newton said. “His taking his life put me on a path to step up and say, hey, I need to do better, even though I wasn’t better then. I just felt that to see people quietly suffering, I could do something to help once I changed the narratives in my life.”

After finishing his football career, Newton worked with his brother, a long-time trainer who owns a gym in Atlanta. Then, he opened his own gym, BU4U Trimfit. The inspiration for his organization’s name came during a session with his counselor, the late Dr. Nick Cooper-Lewter.

“He asked me what it meant to be happy and I had no answer,” he said. “He would ask me the same question over and over again until one day he said, ‘all you have to do is just be you for you. Love yourself and stay committed to Syvelle, and things will change.’”

The gym, located in Northeast Columbia, offers fitness and nutrition services and more, with an emphasis on mental wellness. The smallest emphasis is on fitness itself.

“I get a lot of clients who are looking to better themselves physically, but not knowing that my methods of training are from a mental process, emotional, spiritual, and then it hits physical,” Newton said.

Newton’s most impactful moments as a trainer include connecting with people on a level bigger than fitness.

“One of the hashtags I use is #DeeperThanFitness,” he said. “We use the gym as an arena to fight their battles.”

Next, Newton plans to expand his services after recently completing his accredited life coaching and mental health awareness certifications.

“We’re looking to expand the gym aspect to help people get free counseling, adding on a rage room so that people can release their feelings and then sit with a counselor afterward to talk about those feelings,” he said. “It’ll be like a ‘BU4U University’ that will help people beyond the gym. The mission is not about Syvelle Newton. It’s about mental health awareness.”

Newton had two experiences at South Carolina: his first as a student athlete in 2003 and the second when he returned to complete his media arts degree in 2013.

“My experience made me tough and turned me into the warrior I am,” he said. “But my favorite memories are with the people in the Russell House. Some of them swore they were my mama or my aunt. They were a blessing to players who were missing their families.”

Newton advises people to change the narratives on their past.

“Your life is bigger than your past and the things you’ve experienced,” he said. “You have the power not to jump into a time machine and relive the past. Control what you can control, and what you can’t control is irrelevant. Once you release that, you have a chance at having a meaningful life.”


You are not alone. If you need help, please find these resources:

24-Hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255 
Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741 (FREE, 24/7 and confidential) 
The Trevor Lifeline (LGBTQ+ individuals): 866-488-7386 

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