Cam Newton had no business playing on the junior college level; he was a five-star recruit that had played two seasons at Florida behind Tim Tebow before he left the school because he had been arrested for buying a stolen computer.
Newton’s dad, Cecil, lined him up to attend Blinn College in Brenham, Texas for one season under then head coach Brad Franchione.
Now Cam Newton is the best player in football, and his team is in the Super Bowl. There have been other quarterbacks to take odd paths to the title - Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme - but only a few have gone to the junior college route.
In 2009, Newton led Blinn College to the a national juco title. Newton threw for 2,833 yards with 22 touchdowns and ran for 655 yards at Blinn and was not named first or even second team All-American. After his one season in Brenham, he transferred to Auburn where he won a national title.
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Over the course of a few years I interviewed Franchione, the quarterback that was named an All-American ahead of Newton and Newton himself when he was at Auburn.
Blinn Coach Brad Franchione: (Recruiting) was a long process and a lot of phone calls with (his father) Cecil, and a lot of questions that Cecil wanted answers to. It took time to develop a relationship before Cecil could trust me. At that point, it was a matter of giving Cam a 12-month plan to make him a better leader, a better quarterback and a better football player.
Tirrell Rennie, Ellsworth CC QB, who was second-team all JUCO All American: “(Oklahoma) said, 'We're looking at you and Cam Newton. That's when I looked at the (junior college statistics) and I was beating (Newton) in all of them. I thought, 'I should be OK.' I didn't know he was this 6-foot-6, 250-pound giant."
During that season Franchione raised enough money to repaint the bleachers at Blinn College, which Newton participated in painting. One of his former teammates told me Cam was the best athlete he had ever seen, but that he seldom went out with teammates. Newton told me on a conference call once that he never did visit the famous Blue Bell Ice Cream factory in town, either.
Franchione: “Cam's whole goal when he was there was to win, and to get in a position to get back to the Division I level. He wasn't interested in finding out who he could trust. He was interested in Division I level and be a better quarterback. He was not the quarterback who was going to go out with his receivers and offensive line one night a week. He was going to go to his room, get his studies done, and maybe play video games.
“The thing that he did that always impressed me was that he always did more than anybody else; workout, watch film. Or then he'd get his receivers and throw. His teammates were like business friends. That being said he had a couple of special friends on the team.
“Where I can see (his perceived arrogance) be confusing is in the weight room or a drill or some competition outside of football he was very confident in his abilities. And he wanted to win. I can see where someone who doesn't know Cam as well as I did would say he is arrogant. He's not arrogant. He was confident. He has a lot of self-talk to get ready to compete. He never once big timed me. He wanted the best of everything.”