AJ Green, Randall Cobb and Andrew Luck were all considered good bets. On the other hand, and similarly to Johnny Manziel’s Heisman season, eventual winner Cam Newton was not on the board at the outset.
Not that Newton was any sort of an unknown. As you’ll know from watching him show up for games in all manner of, um, eye-catching outfits, Newton enjoys the limelight. When you’re six-foot-six and 250, and own a variety of hats decorated with feathers, you’re not shy.
And as his junior season began, he had been in the limelight, just not the way we hope for in our athletic heroes.
where it all began
Coming out of high school, Newton was rated a five-star prospect by Rivals.com, and the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the nation. He got offers from various SEC, ACC and Big Ten schools, and landed at the University of Florida, where he would back up Tim Tebow and see first-hand what a Heisman season looked like.
Newton appeared in five games as a freshman, but tore up his ankle in the opener of his sophomore season and took a medical redshirt.
It was at Gainesville that the phrase “persistent controversy” began to be attached to Newton’s name.
newton runs into trouble
On Nov. 21, 2008, the quarterback was arrested and charged with felony counts of burglary, larceny, and obstruction of justice, and was accused of stealing a laptop from another student, which led to his suspension from the Gators.
A memorable report from campus police said they "tracked the stolen laptop to the athlete...Newton tossed the computer out his dorm window in a humorously ill-advised attempt to hide it from cops." (Charges were dropped after he completed a court-approved pre-trial diversion program.)
Three days before the Gators beat Oklahoma to win the national championship, Newton announced his intention to transfer from Florida. Subsequent reporting revealed he was going to be expelled for “three instances of academic dishonesty.”
Even for Urban Myer, it’s tough to go to bat for a thief and cheater.
Next, Newton showed up at Blinn College, where he led the team to the junior college national championship, and became the most recruited Juco quarterback in the country.
Newton quickly won the starting job at Auburn, and was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week after accounting for five total touchdowns in a season-opening victory over Arkansas State.
But beating the Red Wolves is not notable nationally. Accounting for five more touchdowns against South Carolina, as Newton did three weeks later?
heisman talks begin...
By now, Newton did have Heisman odds attached to his name, and was +1200 to win, but well behind Terrelle Prior (+250), Kellen Moore (+450) and Mark Ingram (+750).
Even SEC defences had a tough time with a running quarterback the size of Newton, and he had four rushing touchdowns in a win over Kentucky and three more to beat Arkansas.
Those performances put him squarely at the top of the list of Heisman hopefuls, and that was before he ran for 217 yards against LSU and set the conference record for yards rushing in a season by a QB, a record Auburn quarterback Jimmy Sidle had held for 40 years.
A 49-yard touchdown run in which Newton ran through two tackles, eluded two more and then dragged a defender into the end zone for the touchdown became known as Newton's "Heisman moment."
Newton was listed as the overall favorite for the Heisman, and the odds showed it had become academic (funny word to attach to Newton), with him at -450 and his closest competitor, LaMichael James, at +350. Kellen Moore was +700.
In the Iron Bowl, Newton led Auburn to the largest come-from-behind victory in the program’s 117-year history, winning 28–27 after trailing 24-0, a game Alabama fans still don’t want to talk about.
However, remember “persistent controversy?”
Pay for Play?
Newton spent a good part of the 2010 season in the spotlight caused by allegations that his father had looked for big bucks in return for his son’s services as he was transferring from Blinn College.
Several MSU boosters quoted Cecil Newton as saying it would take "more than just a scholarship" to sign Cam, and that the figure being thrown around was "anywhere between $100,000 and $180,000."
On November 30, Auburn declared Cam Newton ineligible after the NCAA said it had evidence that Cecil Newton solicited payment from Mississippi State, but immediately filed to have him reinstated, saying Cam Newton was not aware of his father's activity.
The NCAA sided with Auburn and reinstated Newton the next day, making him again eligible for the SEC championship game and the Heisman trophy, which he won in a landslide, taking 729 first-place votes and becoming the first double-transfer to win the Heisman and the first JUCO transfer to do so since Mike Rozier of Nebraska in 1983.
the end of an era
Newton capped his college career in Auburn’s 22-19 win over Oregon in the BCS national championship game.
Three days later, Newton announced he would forego his senior season, and declared for the draft.
In the years since, it has been written that Newton in 2010, with a relatively small amount of talent surrounding him, played the best single season in college football history.