College football: Cam's improbable journey to a title

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 13, 2011

By Andy Newberry
Scripps Howard News Service
I love most of the Cam Newton story, just not the part that has dominated the headlines the last couple of months.
Since it’s self or at least family-inflicted, it may be hard to build up sympathy for the Auburn quarterback, but some of the amazing story has been lost.
Newton won back-to-back national championships, one Monday night for Auburn after a 22-19 victory over Oregon and his first one a year earlier for Blinn (Tex.) College in junior college.
That’s probably as impressive as any back-to-back you can think of.
From a JUCO Youtube sensation playing in tiny stadiums to accepting the Heisman Trophy in New York.
The odds of a JUCO athlete getting to the top of the mountain are substantially less than his odds of quitting and going back home as a dropout.
Newton’s tale is storybook stuff. Red Grange legendary stuff!
He’s Vince Young winning the title in the Rose Bowl without the Division I prep time that the Longhorn great enjoyed.
Newton was on no one’s list of Heisman candidates. Auburn wasn’t on the radar of national-title contenders or even serious SEC contenders.
Do you know how hard it is to pull off a surprise these days? I know athletes get up and talk about the doubters after they win a title, but it’s usually that someone somewhere picked them to be fourth in the country and then they finished first.
Its usually manufactured adversity they picked up from a weak pre-game speech by their coach.
But you can’t shock sports fans anymore, at least in a positive way. We knew when LeBron James was 15 that he was a future NBA star. The Internet and recruiting services and message boards make guys who make a backwards half-court shot a national name in a matter of days.
The Seattle Seahawks didn’t come out of nowhere. Pete Carroll is a high-priced coach, Matt Hasselbeck has started in a Super Bowl and Marshawn Lynch was a first-round pick.
But going from JUCO to BCS champ, that’s a real upset. Championship contenders add a blue-chip quarterback about every year. There are few championship mixes where you just add water and a JUCO quarterback.
The descriptions around Newton start with his leadership. Then there’s his 6-6, 250-pound frame that just chews up the yards when he takes off.
And obviously there’s not much quit in the guy. Americans love that. He bounced back from his troubles at Florida. He seemed to play better after his father’s troubles came to light.
And give him a deficit of seven points or 24, as he faced against defending champion Alabama, and Newton responded by playing even better.
I think we will certainly appreciate his story a lot more years from now than we do today.
His former teammate at Florida, Tim Tebow, won two titles and a Heisman although he was only a starter for one of them. Tebow got so many headlines for all the right reasons that half of America was hoping a scandal would break.
Newton would have probably loved to have been hated for being too good. He only had a few months of praise before his image took a hit.
But his final stage of the season showed where Newton is at his best, rallying and leading his team to victory.