There have been only a handful African-American quarterbacks in recent years to dominate in the powerhouse Southeastern Conference (SEC). Chris Leak of Florida University (2003-2006) and former Kentucky University star Andre Woodson (2004-2007) lead the short list of prolific Black passers to excel in one of the most elite football conferences in college football.

But the Auburn University Tigers are hoping to add to that list after recently naming former junior college quarterback Cameron Newton as their starter for the approaching 2010 season.

At 6-foot-6-inches, 250-pounds, Newton has the prototypical size, arm strength and mobility to be one of the best passers in the nation. He was even rated as one of the top football prospects coming out of high school, recruited as a quarterback for the Florida Gators in 2007. He would probably have been taken as an NFL first round draft pick over Florida’s Tim Tebow this season, had he not been dismissed from Florida in 2008 after an arrest for stealing a laptop during his redshirt sophomore season.

But after completing minor probation for first time offenders (the most serious charges of grand theft and tampering were dropped), and playing a year of junior college ball at Blinn College in Texas; Newton is now ready for his second chance on the big stage. And an Auburn program that finished with a 3-5 record in the SEC last season is more than willing to give it to him. But it’s not just the coaches that want him; the players are excited, too.

“From the first day he was here, Cam rolled his sleeves up, put his head down and competed as hard as anyone,” Auburn senior linebacker Josh Bynes told ESPN. “Some people might have made him out to be the savior, but it was never like that with him. He fit right in, and a lot of that was because of the way he went about his business.”

Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn orchestrates a spread offense, which he believes is the perfect fit for Newton’s abilities on the field.

“Everybody knows he’s a good runner, but he’s got a strong arm,” Malzahn told ESPN of the Atlanta native who passed for 2,833 yards, 22 touchdowns, while rushing for 655 yards and 16 touchdowns for Blinn College last year. “He can get the ball in windows a lot of people can’t.”

Newton also led Blinn College to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Championship; he now believes he’s physically and mentally ready to lead his new team to its own championship, something he wasn’t mature enough to do just a few years ago.

”A 17-year-old kid who graduated high school early has a different way of looking at things than a 21-year-old grown man,” Newton stated to ESPN. “I was young and naive at Florida. I’ve lived the life of a freshman, and now it’s time for me to wake up and smell the coffee and play ball.”

 

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor