After being released by the New England Patriots, Cam Newton is awaiting another opportunity. His football journey is one of the most intriguing stories in recent memory. He went from playing behind Tim Tebow in college to earning the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award.
Playing behind one of the most successful college football players of the past 20 years, Newton learned a lot. The unique experience prepared him for college football and NFL stardom.
Cam Newton and Tim Tebow were 5-star prospects out of high school
Tim Tebow was a standout quarterback at Ponte Vedra High School and earned a five-star rating by 247Sports. He was rated as the top dual-threat quarterback in the country and the No. 21 overall prospect in the Class of 2006.
Cam Newton was part of a loaded 2007 recruiting class just one year after Tebow arrived in Gainesville. Newton starred at Westlake High School in Atlanta, Georgia. 247Sports rated him as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 26 overall prospect in the class.
Newton was also highly-recruited but spurned several other SEC schools to join the Gators. His high school highlight tape was unreal, as he sometimes appeared to be a man playing amongst boys. The Atlanta native consistently made opposing defenders pay with his arms and his legs.
Tebow and Newton both dominated at the high school level and ended up in the same quarterback room at Florida.
Newton was Tebow’s backup at Florida
Tim Tebow played behind Chris Leak as a freshman with the Gators, but he appeared in all 14 games. He threw for 358 yards and five touchdowns on just 33 attempts. He impacted the game with his legs in a major way, though. Tebow carried the ball 89 times for 469 yards and eight touchdowns.
After waiting his turn, No. 15 took over as the full-time starting quarterback as a sophomore. He was dominant, too. Tebow passed for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns while completing nearly 67% of his throws. He threw just six interceptions.
Tebow also added 895 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground. After a stellar 2007 season, he won AP Player of the Year and the Heisman Trophy.
Cam Newton served as Tebow’s backup in 2007. He attempted 10 passes but ran for three touchdowns. He appeared in just one game during the 2008 season. Newton transferred to Blinn College, a Texas junior college, in 2009.
In his one season at Blinn, Newton dominated the competition. He was the No. 3 JUCO prospect per 247Sports. He landed at Auburn in 2010 and put together one of the most impressive single seasons in college football history.
Newton joined the All the Smoke podcast and discussed his time at Florida. He spoke about his experience playing behind Tim Tebow. “Tim Tebow was everything as advertised, and some,” he said. “I can say I sat the bench behind a Heisman Trophy winner.”
Newton praised his teammate as one of the best college football players ever but wanted his moment. “It just wasn’t a good fit for me,” Newton said of Florida.
Cam Newton ended up being a better NFL quarterback than Tim Tebow
Despite Tebow enjoying a longer reign at the top of the college football landscape, Newton displayed more longevity at the next level.
After running through competition at Auburn, Newton was ready for the NFL. Regarded by many as the best player in the 2011 NFL Draft, he went No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers.
The former Auburn standout earned the starting quarterback role in his first season in Carolina. He threw for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. He also ran for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns. Newton’s dual-threat success propelled him to winning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Tim Tebow’s rookie season didn’t go nearly as well. The Denver Broncos took him with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. He appeared in nine games as a rookie, throwing for 654 yards and five touchdowns. He added 227 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
Tebow took over as the starter in 2011, but his limitations as a passer were exposed. He started two games for the Jets in 2012, but that was it for his career. He attempted a comeback before the 2021 season, but was relegated to trying out for the Jacksonville Jaguars as a tight end.
Newton has spent 10 seasons in the NFL, nine as a starter. He earned three Pro Bowl selections. He was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 2015 after leading the Panthers to the Super Bowl.
Despite being Tim Tebow’s backup at Florida, Cam Newton used it as motivation, and it paid off in the long run.