As Auburn prepared for its trip to Tampa last season there was a lot of optimism about the coming year, but there was also something going on at the same time on the recruiting front that would make a major difference in just how good the 2010 Tigers could be, and that was the recruiting of Cameron Newton.
None of us would have ever anticipated or dreamed the impact the quarterback would have on the team and the thousands of peoples' lives he touched. It has been a fairy tale type story. I have never seen anything like it in football.
Bo (Bo Jackson, 1985 Heisman Trophy winner) had a tremendous impact on our football program when he got to Auburn as a freshman in 1982. When he got here he wasn't a mature young man like Cam Newton is now. Bo was certainly mature beyond his years, but he was still a freshman.
In Bo's first year his presence gave us hope that better days were coming for Auburn football and that was the case. Of course, that first year he was on the team we won the Iron Bowl, which we couldn't have won that season without him, and he contributed to many wins in his four years at Auburn.
For Cam Newton to come in and do what he has done in just one year is really phenomenal. I am sure that Cam didn't come to Auburn just expecting to be here for one year, but one would assume he will probably be coming out in the NFL Draft based on the predictions of where he will be selected, but that is a decision he will have to make in the coming weeks. Whatever he does we have been blessed to see this young athlete elevate his teammates, his coaching staff and the expectations of his football team.
Cameron Newton is shown at a photo shoot in New York City for his official Heisman Trophy portrait.
Everybody dreams of winning a national championship, but realistically with Gene Chizik in just his second season in charge of the Tigers the program isn't far enough along in the rebuilding process to have expected this type of season. With the job Coach Chizik is doing, I think the Tigers will be there one day when the team doesn't need to have a player like Newton to lead the way to a championship season. I think the position that Auburn is in now to have a chance to win the BCS Championship says a lot about what a special player and leader Cam Newton is.
To watch the quarterback handle the football stuff and the off-the-field stuff so well has been a fulfilling thing for an old ex-coach and I am sure it is the same for Auburn fans who are excited about what he has done and what the team has been able to do.
Cameron Newton soaks in the atmosphere at Times Square in New York City on Monday.
I think going forward he has already received a lot of individual honors like the Heisman Trophy he so richly deserves because of his play on the field and with his team being undefeated and winning the SEC championship. When you have a season like this one the stars on the team are recognized. If the Tigers had lost two or three games some of the other players on the team wouldn't have received the recognition they are getting and richly deserve.
Newton is shown during a guest appearance on ABC's Good Morning America television show on Monday.
I hope the biggest thing that Cam Newton will take away from his time with the Tigers is that he will reap the real benefits by understanding the significance of what it means to be an Auburn man. All of the fame and glory he has received this year is a short-lived thing compared to a lifetime of benefits a person receives for being an Auburn man. My Christmas wish for Cam is that he truly understands that at Auburn there really is a difference.
Editor's Note: This part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns a week--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)