Cam Newton Discusses Tim Tebow, Time at Florida With Shannon Sharpe – “That’s What Created the Monster”

    Cam Newton won a national championship and Heisman Trophy at Auburn, but he began his career at Florida. What happened in "The Swamp?"

    Cam Newton is synonymous with college football greatness, owning one of the best seasons by a QB in NCAA history. However, his road to a national championship and Heisman Trophy at Auburn began at a different SEC program. Newton sat down with NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe on the Club Shay Shay podcast to discuss his two-year stint with the Florida Gators.

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    Cam Newton’s Two Years at Florida Leads to National Championship Mentality

    Newton was a five-star recruit and the No. 2 dual-threat QB (behind Tyrod Taylor) coming out of Westlake High School in Atlanta. Despite offers from Georgia, Ole Miss, and Oklahoma, he committed to Florida prior to his senior season.

    He joined the top-rated recruiting class in the country, a haul that consisted of Joe Haden, Aaron Hernandez, Carlos Dunlap, twin brothers Mike and Maurkice Pouncy, Chris Rainey, Major Wright, and John Brantley, among others.

    With Chris Leak entering the NFL Draft, Tim Tebow was slated to be the starter at QB. Newton told Sharpe that, to lure him to Gainesville, Urban Meyer and his staff promised him he would have packages based on his rushing ability, much like Tebow had the season before as Leak’s backup.

    The idea was great in Newton’s mind, as it allowed him to get his feet wet in the SEC and played to his toughness — a trait he earned starting his football journey off as a linebacker before switching to running back and finally quarterback.

    Unfortunately, those promised packages rarely occurred, as Newton finished his true freshman season with 16 carries (though he took them for 103 yards and three touchdowns) and 10 passing attempts (completed five for 40 yards).

    Having to watch Tebow enjoy the success Newton craved only served as motivation, with Newton saying, “Tim Tebow is owed a large portion of who Cam Newton really is.” Adding fuel to the fire was seeing his fellow true freshmen receiving significant snaps early in their careers while he stood on the sideline.

    Voicing his frustration with the lack of playing time wasn’t an option for Newton, as he said, “Urban didn’t want to talk to me. I wasn’t important enough for Urban to talk to me.” Now, to Newton’s credit, he knew where he stood on a depth chart under Tebow, a Heisman frontrunner and one of the best college QBs ever — “If not No. 1, he top five,” Newton explained.

    Entering the 2008 season, Newton had adjusted to being No. 2 … but even that wasn’t clear. That offseason, Meyer held a battle between Newton and Brantley for the QB2 role and didn’t have a clear answer by the time the season came. Well, in November, the answer was clear.

    On November 21, 2008, Newton was arrested on felony charges of burglary, larceny, and obstruction of justice. Newton was accused of stealing a laptop from another student, and when campus police tracked it to him, he tossed it out his dorm window. All charges were eventually dropped, but the QB didn’t see the field the rest of the year.

    Florida went on to defeat Oklahoma in the national championship, and three days later, Tebow announced he was returning to “The Swamp” for one more season. That was the last straw for Newton, who opted to transfer later that month.

    “All the reasons why I went to Florida was accomplished other than me playing and that’s why I had to leave,” Newton said.

    Of course, the portal wasn’t what it is today. Meyer had to sign off on where Newton went next, and the coach ruled out all in-state and in-conference schools. So, Newton took the JUCO route, joining Blinn College in Texas.

    But before arriving on campus, his father called Meyer, requesting Newton’s national championship ring, as he was on the roster during the team’s run. His request was denied. “That really was my diving force to becoming the player who I was. I said, ‘Don’t worry about it, I’m going to get my own.”

    That’s exactly what Newton did. He led Blinn to a 2009 NJCAA National Football Championship victory, throwing for 2,833 yards and 22 TDs while rushing for another 655 yards and 16 scores. As the No. 1 ranked QB from either high school or JUCO that offseason, he received several Power Five offers, choosing Auburn over Oklahoma and Mississippi State.

    Newton’s lone season with the Tigers was much of the same. He ran for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns and completed 66% of his passes for 2,854 yards, 30 TDs, and just seven interceptions. The result? A Heisman Trophy, an undefeated regular season, and a 14-0 national championship win over Oregon.

    Even with all that success, Newton’s thirst for revenge wasn’t quite quenched. “There was an opportunity for Auburn to play Florida in the SEC Championship … that’s what I wanted. I wanted to prove to them that they made a mistake. That was my opportunity to prove that this could’ve been y’all, but you played me.”

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    While he didn’t personally dispatch the Gators, they flopped to an 8-5 record with Brantley under center, who averaged 6.3 yards per attempt and had a 9:10 TD-to-INT ratio, and Meyer announced his retirement that December.

    Newton’s time at Florida “created the monster” that would become a two-time national champion, 2010 Heisman winner, and the first overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. But his football journey was only beginning.

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