Why Did Cam Newton Have to Play at a Junior College?

At his peak, Cam Newton was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Virtually none of his peers could match his level of athleticism, accuracy, and strength. Many feel he still has such excellence left in him. Yet in March, after a couple of years plagued by injuries and declining performance, the Carolina Panthers officially released Newton into the free agency market.

Newton’s availability has sparked a new round of interest in him, both as a player and as a person. One of the most interesting aspects of Newton’s journey to the NFL was the year he spent playing at a junior college. Here we review the interesting saga of Newton’s college years, while speculating about where he might end up next season.

Cam Newton’s two-year stint at Florida

Newton’s athletic gifts were readily apparent during his high school career, and as a result, he was heavily recruited going into college. He ultimately ended up attending the University of Florida. During his first season in 2008, Newton earned a role as the back-up quarterback behind Tim Tebow, who ended up winning the Heisman Trophy that year.

Newton played in five games as a freshman, completing five of 10 pass attempts for 40 total passing yards, and rushing for 103 yards and three touchdowns.

That promising start to his career was derailed the following season. Newton played just one game before suffering an ankle injury that resulted in him taking a medical redshirt season.

The injury must have taken a toll on Newton mentally as well, because in November of that year he was arrested on charges of burglary, felony, larceny, and obstruction of justice.

The charges stemmed from Newton’s theft of a fellow student’s laptop computer. Even though charges were later dropped when Newton entered a diversion program, he was suspended from the team.

Cam Newton’s year of junior college

In January of 2009, Newton announced that he was transferring to Blinn College in Brenham, Texas. Although the move was ostensibly voluntary, reports later surfaced that Newton was facing possible expulsion from Florida.

Blinn College couldn’t have been more different than the major state school, both in terms of its football program and in terms of its social and academic life.

While attending the 2,400 student junior college, Newton bunked in a dorm room next to a cow pasture. He was drastically overqualified for the role of quarterback for the Blinn Buccaneers, but he accepted his change of status in a mature way. He led the team all the way to the 2009 NJCAA National Football Championship.

Along the way, Newton racked up 2,833 passing yards, with a completion percentage of 61%. He threw 22 pass touchdowns, while also rushing for 655 yards with 16 rushing touchdowns.

The following year, Newton departed for Auburn, where he ultimately won both the SEC Offensive Player of the Year award and the Heisman Trophy.

An uncertain future in the NFL

Cam Newton’s year at Blinn junior college seemingly straightened him out. It appeared to impart the kind of leadership mentality that has made him such a huge asset in the NFL.

While most analysts agree that Newton’s skills have declined in recent years, he is still considered a potentially game-changing asset. As a result, the sports world is rife with rumors about where he might choose to sign.

Currently, the best odds are for Newton to end up with the Los Angeles Chargers. Analysts feel his style of play would best well with offensive weapons like Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen. If the Chargers can sign him to a team-friendly offer sheet, they can still preserve future cap space and try to draft a long-term replacement in the coming years.

Other teams reportedly interested in acquiring Newton include the Buffalo Bills, the Las Vegas Raiders, and even the New England Patriots. The Patriots, in particular, make an intriguing option. With the departure of Tom Brady, perhaps coach Bill Belichick will zag by embracing a quarterback with more of a running game.