By Justin Graves
The Cullman Times
My, how things have changed for Cam Newton.
A little more than a year ago, Newton was hidden away at Blinn College, painting the bleachers with a tiny brush.
“It was about a month or two month thing,” Newton said. “Our coach (Brad Franchione) was like, ‘The stadium is going to be what you make it out to be.’ We brought plenty of paint and paint brushes, and it wasn’t like the paint brushes you get at Home Depot. These were like the sample ones. You had to keep dipping it like three times.
“It was bad. I was questioning him. I was questioning why I went there.”
Those days are long gone. After leading Blinn to the NJCAA national title in 2009, Newton transferred to Auburn, where he has traded the paint brush for a website — Cam2Newton.com — promoting him as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
It’s been quite a journey for a quarterback who started his career as Tim Tebow’s backup at Florida in 2007. But those long and winding roads are what keep the Auburn quarterback — who just so happens to be the Heisman frontrunner — grounded now that he’s finally reached prominence.
Or at least that’s the way Newton sees it.
“Times like that (at Blinn) consistently keep me humble and grounded now,” Newton said. “I can revert back to that and remember where I came from.
"Referring back to things like that is just something that when the times might be bigger than people may think it seems, I just have to consistently remind myself of where I came from.”
Life has changed for Newton since arriving at Auburn. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound quarterback leads the Southeastern Conference in rushing and passing efficiency, and he’s a major reason why the Tigers are ranked No. 1 in the latest Bowl Championship Series poll.
And the Cam Newton frenzy has only gotten stronger with every electrifying touchdown.
The fanfare has made for an interesting experience on campus.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Newton, who has accounted for 27 touchdowns. “Honestly, I can remember a time when I used to go to campus and people weren’t looking at me like they’re looking at me now. That’s just another blessing in itself.
“When you walk on campus, you can just feel the love of every single one … They make you feel special and there is more to it than just football. It’s something bigger.”
Newton has quickly become one of the most iconic players in Auburn history, and he has yet to play a full season.
That tidbit of information is what should have the rest of the SEC on notice.
“I think everybody has to be mindful that he has been in this offense for eight games,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “I think (Newton’s progression) has been very steady.
“He has made significant strides in being a true leader of the offense … Kind of like his game has evolved week after week, (his on-the-field leadership) has gotten better and better. He does it with action because of his effort and his competitiveness and his stick-to-it-ness and all of those things it takes to be a good quarterback. Everybody sees that.”
While Newton’s rise to the top has been rapid, Chizik feels like the attention he’s received is warranted.
“He does a lot of things on his own, makes guys miss, makes plays,” Chizik said. “That’s why he’s getting the attention that he’s getting, and rightly so.
“But at the end of the day, it is a team award and the best thing we can do to promote any of our guys for any for any of our postseason awards is to continue to try to coach them to give them a play every week to win.”
Justin Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 257 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.