Flashback: UGA’s recruitment of NFL rookie sensation Cam Newton

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It’s Homecoming Week for NFL rookie sensation Cam Newton.

The former 5-star quarterback from College Park’s Westlake High School will lead the Carolina Panthers against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

“It’s a homecoming celebration for people in College Park and around the city of Atlanta — the unfortunate thing is that he’s on the opposite team,” former Westlake offensive coordinator and QB coach Marquis Slaton told the AJC with a laugh.

Newton’s success over the last 14-15 months has been the stuff of legends. He led Auburn to the BCS championship, won the Heisman Trophy, and was selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft.

Newton has single-handily revitalized hope and excitement in the Panthers franchise, putting the team in position to win in all five of his starts this season while breaking NFL rookie records along the way.

There are a lot of people jumping on the Cam Newton Bandwagon.

“It was funny to hear [NFL analyst] Terry Bradshaw retract his statements now and say Cam Newton is the most exciting rookie quarterback he has seen since Peyton Manning,” Slaton said. “The bandwagon has been rolling but Cameron personally takes it all in stride. His main focuses are getting better at quarterback each week and getting the team a victory.”

Newton has had such a meteoric rise at QB that some NFL fans across the country are wondering how the tall and lanky kid from Atlanta managed to escape the grasps of nearby UGA and Georgia Tech for college ball. That’s why we talked to Slaton, who coached at Westlake from 2003-08.

Former Westlake HS star Cam Newton (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Former Westlake HS star Cam Newton (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Flashback to 2006: UGA was actually an early leader for Newton due to several reasons: His buddy — and the top offensive lineman from Westlake — Kiante Tripp had signed with the Bulldogs the year before, UGA had molded and developed former Westlake star Sean Jones into a second-round pick at safety for the 2005 NFL Draft, and one of Westlake’s assistant coaches was a former UGA player (Resty Beadles). UGA offered Newton around the same time as Florida, and Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo personally recruited Newton for the Bulldogs.

How did it all unfold? The Bulldogs understandably lost momentum with Newton when they signed the No. 1-rated Pro Style QB in the nation in 2006 – Matthew Stafford, while Florida signed the No. 1 Dual Threat QB with Tim Tebow the same year. UGA also began talking to Newton about the possibility of playing other positions in college.

Here’s what UGA coach Mark Richt told the AJC about the recruitment of Newton before last year’s game against Auburn:

“I remember him. He was a very talented guy, a guy that we did look at. We actually had him pegged as more of a tight end prospect. A lot of it had to do with what we like to do offensively,  more of a fit [issue] than any disrespect to his ability to play quarterback. He’s proven to be pretty darn good, though.”

That was a dealbreaker. Cam Newton had UGA among his leaders until then, according to his coach. “He was serious about them,” Slaton said. “Our team had a 7-on-7 camp at Georgia, and he went to another camp there. Georgia was on the radar for him. But his father didn’t want him to be in a situation where he had a tag on him as a ‘quarterback-athlete’ and end up in a situation like DJ Shockley — having to wait until his final year to have the opportunity to compete at the quarterback position.”

Cam Newton (No. 2 jersey) from school yearbook at Westlake (Special)

Cam Newton (No. 2 jersey) from school yearbook at Westlake (Special)

“Cameron had put in a lot of hard work and long hours preparing to be a quarterback. He didn’t want that all to go down the drain. Pretty much from going around to different 7-on-7 camps and camps during the summer to compete against the nation’s other top QBs at the time, he knew – as well as the rest of our coaching staff – that he could play quarterback on the collegiate level.”

UGA wasn’t the only school that talked to Newton about playing other positions – Miami and Florida State also recruited him as a “quarterback-athlete.” Georgia Tech, under then-coach Chan Gailey, never really got involved with pursuing Newton, according to his coach.

Shortly after Newton began his senior year at Westlake in 2006, he committed to Florida over Oklahoma and Auburn. All three were schools that promised to play Newton as a “quarterback only.” Newton graduated early from Westlake to enroll at Florida in January. Ironically, by the time of signing day in February 2007, the Gators had two other commitments at quarterback, including fellow 5-star John Brantley of Ocala, Fla. UGA signed 4-star Logan Gray from Missouri as part of a package deal with his high school teammate, tight end Aron White.

You know the rest of the story with Newton: After two seasons at Florida, Newton left for Blinn Junior College in Texas, again earning top status as quarterback prospect. The second time around, Newton picked Auburn over Mississippi State and Oklahoma (UGA never was involved).

Cam Newton was honored by lawmakers with the Georgia House and Senate last April (AJC)

Cam Newton was honored by lawmakers with the Georgia House and Senate last April (AJC)

“It was just a matter of time before someone was going to give him the opportunity to go out there, show what he can do, and lead his team to victory,” Slaton said. “He wasn’t a sleeper prospect or a diamond in the rough. The colleges all knew about him. He just needed an opportunity, and I think making the decision to go to Auburn helped boost him to where he has a gotten now as a quarterback.”

“He has had an awesome start in the NFL. I think he’s continuing to get better each week, helping his team to be in a position to win ballgames. He understands his role. He’s playing within his talent, and doing exactly what the offense allows him to do and what the defense gives him the opportunity to do. He and the rest of the team wish they had more wins, but they know they are just a play or two away.”

What about Sunday’s game? “I know he will be excited about the atmosphere and playing in front of a lot of family and friends. But the most important thing to him about that game will be doing everything he can to help win it for his team.”

BIG STORIES OF THE DAY

  • Alabama RB commit Kenyan Drake stars in upset over No. 1 team (click on story link)
  • Auburn offers Georgia Tech’s No. 1 recruit, who will visit soon (click on story link)
  • Update on AJC Super 11 selection Josh Harvey-Clemons of Lowndes High School (click on story link)
  • Kentucky WR commit DeMarcus Sweat is special on special teams (click on story link)
  • Tennessee-bound LB has “no hard feelings” toward UGA or Georgia Tech (click on story link)
  • Buford TE Kurt Freitag returns from official visits to Florida and Alabama (click on story link)
  • Guess why Georgia Tech’s No. 1 recruit didn’t visit UGA? TRUE STORY (click on story link)
  • North Gwinnett DL talks about Ohio State football offer (click on story link)
  • Guess who was waiting on Atlanta basketball star Tony Parker when he returned from his official visit to UCLA? Coach K. The Duke coach has launched an all-out effort to land TP (click on story link)
  • Vanderbilt (yes, Vanderbilt) is recruiting Atlanta in a way that would make Lane Kiffin proud. Vanderbilt’s coach cruised to a pair of high school games on Friday in a helicopter (click on story link)
  • Will OL Brandon Kublanow commit to UGA after getting his “dream offer” this weekend? (click on story link)
  • Steve Spurrier gets commitment from Columbia HS defensive end Jhaustin Thomas (click on story link)
  • Twin sons of ex-NBA point guard Mookie Blaylock are headed to Kentucky — but to play football (click on story link)

– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog

Got an item? mcarvell@ajc.com

Got an item? mcarvell@ajc.com

Note: Inappropriate BLOG comments and personal attacks will NOT be tolerated. We love the lively discussions but hate-filled, harassing and irresponsible comments are unacceptable.

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251 comments Add your comment

Tide Roll

October 10th, 2011
5:14 am

Do it Dawgs! Booboo flies two time zones away to land Logan Gray, with the greatest QB in the history of college football 45 minutes from campus. Cam knew he wouldn’t get a fair shake at UGA, and to even suggest he play tight end after what he accomplished at the high school level was and is to this day an insult. To then fail to recruit him again, with the numerous connections he had at UGA, AFTER leading Blinn JC to a JUCO National Title AS A QUARTERBACK, basically says all you need to know about RICHT, BOBO and UGA. The truth is, no matter what his achievements, Richt/Bobo didn’t want him. And as a result, they mindlessly ended up arming one of their fiercest rivals with a physical freak of nature who kicked their butt while leading Auburn to a National Title.It says it all about UGA doesn’t it? It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so pitiful. It ranks up there with the biggest blunders in sports history. Check the records. I’ll bet you Richt and Booboo were involved in the Red Sox trade of the BABE to theYankees. May UGA stay mediocre forever. As it should.

Coach T

October 10th, 2011
5:15 am

The Falcons are playing like Vanderbilt. Cam will have a monster day at the Georgia Dome. It’s going to be ugl-eee.

Eric C.

October 10th, 2011
5:47 am

Tide Roll, yeah, and he’s the guy whose dad almost single-handedly brought down Auburn with recruiting violations.

Eric C.

October 10th, 2011
5:49 am

Panthers Fan, no, but Stafford is doing pretty well

Eric C.

October 10th, 2011
5:53 am

Randy14, and how about QB U (Miami) doing the same thing

Russ the mascot

October 10th, 2011
5:54 am

This wasn’t about the Richt/Bobo clowns picking Stafford over Cam Newton. DOES ANYBODY READ? They picked LOGAN GRAY over Cam. Logan Gray??? Richt/Bobo told Logan Gray he would play quarterback. WHAT A JOKE OF A TALENT EVALUATION. We missed on a franchise quarterback because of those clowns.

Da Truth

October 10th, 2011
5:57 am

We all “know” why Cam didn’t go to Georgia. It was the “same reason” why Christian LeMay will end wishing he didn’t go there, just like DJ Shockley and QDawg Carter.

Tide Roll

October 10th, 2011
6:11 am

Historians and UGA fans will come to know it as “THE CURSE OF THE CAM”, and it will rank right up there with “THE CURSE OF THE GOAT” (CUBS), and “THE CURSE OF THE BABE” (RED SOX). Lose to Colorado with a late fumble, and then to Central Florida? It’s “THE CURSE OF THE CAM”. Your Athletic Director takes a “Red Panty Ride” around Buckhead ? There’s only one explanation. “THE CURSE OF THE CAM”. Your starting defensive end has two sacks and a QB hurry vs. Miss. State and then picks up a DUI ? All together now: TCOTC. With Halloween just around the corner,if I were Richt/Bobo and UGA, I’d be afraid, very afraid.Boo!

So GA Dawg

October 10th, 2011
6:18 am

It was a BLESSING in DISGUISE for Newton. He would’ve been a huge underachiever under Coach Mike Bobo just like Matthew Stafford. All that talent with a #1 NFL pick in Stafford and so little accomplished under Coach Bobo at Georgia. AWFUL

Kiss the Ring

October 10th, 2011
6:25 am

Thank you UGA for being completely stupid!

Sincerely,

The 2010 Natiuonal Champions

Paddy

October 10th, 2011
6:34 am

tide roll…..didn’t I see you around that big oak tree in Auburn Al awhile back?

Tide Roll

October 10th, 2011
6:35 am

Tide Roll

October 10th, 2011
6:41 am

Strange things are going on. 2nd and 57? TCOTC.

TKD

October 10th, 2011
6:44 am

IF COACH BOOBOOO COULDN’T WIN A NAT CHAMPIONSHIP WITH STAFFORD WHAT’S NOT TO THINK HE WOULDN’T HAVE SCREWED IT UP WITH CAM NEWTON TO?

Oldboy

October 10th, 2011
6:49 am

One might remember that Cam had to leave UF because of legal issues. If he had legal problems that big at Florida, a school with a rich history of sweeping stuff under the rug, he would have had legal problems at UGA. He claims that he developed an attitude being stuck behind Tebow on the depth chart. He would have been stuck behind Stafford as well. Even if we would have landed him, there is no way we would have kept him.

slydog

October 10th, 2011
6:52 am

Matthew Stafford is good. Really good. But on the college level, Cam would have been better with the talent that UGA had at the time between 2007-2010. I like how Carvell “tried” to clean up UGA’s mistake in this matter of recruiting Cam at TE. However, this situation speaks VOLUMES about how black QB’s are perceived, in general. I’m talking simply about perception, not racism or bias. No way was CMR or BoBo going to conform to fit an offense around a player and most HC’s and OC’s, who just happen to be white, will not. And that’s just the way it is. I understand that Cam “fit” Florida’s offense better, but everyone knows he preferred UGA, cause he wanted to work in a pro style offense. Anyhow, Cam has just slapped every “football expert” in the mouth by proving that he can not only master a spread offense, but also become a pro style QB playing with ACCURACY. Cam is an example to all these “conservative” thinking coaches out here. There are some great QB’s who don’t get personal QB coaches and trainers at age 12 (Stafford, Tebow, Barkely,etc.), and therefore a little extra time taken out might reap you high rewards.

slydog

October 10th, 2011
6:55 am

Oldboy

Your logic has a fallacy. Hypothetically, if one walks down either the right or the left side of the street, there are bound to be at least two different outcomes. I feel what you are saying, but different situations tend to lead to different results when considering young people. It’s us “adults” who have developed the habit of doing the same dumb thing regardless of environment.

bo

October 10th, 2011
6:55 am

1. It doesn’t sound like he would have lasted long at UGA. So, to some extent his HS recruitment is a moot point.

2. Newton’s collge legacy may not be fully apparent yet. The NCAA is still investigating AU.

Lars Taint

October 10th, 2011
7:13 am

What was Mark RIcht supposed to tell him… Come to UGA to sit behind Stafford. Maybe he will go pro early and you can see the field in three years. It’s not like Newton was the qb he is today coming out of high school. Before he transferred from UF, John Brantley was projected to start over him.

Tide Roll

October 10th, 2011
7:24 am

Maybe if Cam hadn’t got kicked off the florida team, then Bama wouldn’t have given up a 24 point lead against auburn.

Tide Roll

October 10th, 2011
7:26 am

and why didn’t Georgia Tech recruit Cam? or for that matter Alabama? what’s going on here? where are my morning pills? I think I’m going through menapause

Tide Roll

October 10th, 2011
7:30 am

I still can’t believe Alabama hired Shula. Why didn’t they hire Sylvester Croom? He obviously had the better credentials. Somethings going on here.

BamaBornDukie

October 10th, 2011
7:31 am

Only UGA, Mark Richt and Mike Bobo would suggest that Newton play tight end in college.

Bulldog fans, you guys happy with such a “moronic” head coach and offensive coordinator?

As an Alabama fan, I support giving Mark Richt a LIFETIME contract to be the UGA coach as I simply love how Bama continues to come to the state of Georgia and get the “best” recruits here [with the exception of Crowell and Mitchell as I really wanted them at Bama as they are very good players].

Way to mess up the Cam Newton recruitment Dawgs…….SMH…..Clueless coaching staff with all this talent in the state of Georgia and yet Alabama, Auburn, and South Carolina are in states with another major team [Clemson in South Carolina] and their states are smaller in terms of population and the number of elite players….yet they are still better than UGA in football.

If James Franklin were to get the UGA job [with his being able to get a top 25 recruiting class at Vandy....a school that never recruits well]……..UGA would be a top 5 team every year with a real coach like Franklin.

Old Dawg

October 10th, 2011
7:32 am

Coach Richt saying he recruited Cam as a tight end is an embarrassment, he should’ve never admitted that. It looks bad.

I still believe the guy who feels the worst about everything is Urban Meyer. He lost out on 1, 2, or 3 more national championships when Cam left Florida.

PLEASE give us a break with what Cam got in trouble about at Florida. Many players at Florida and UGA have gotten in trouble for much, much worse, and stayed on the roster. Coach Meyer was the one who really blew it here and it cost him some of his legacy as a coach.

WDE '07

October 10th, 2011
7:33 am

WHo on Earth would admit they recruited the #1 NFL pick at quarterback as a tight end? This has to be the all-time dumbeest recruiting move

Tide Roll

October 10th, 2011
7:34 am

That Atlanta Pride Festival sure was a lot of fun this weekend.

Tide Roll

October 10th, 2011
7:37 am

Those Bama fans sure didn’t want to see any black players on the football team. Bear Bryant had to bring in the National Gaurd. Roll Tide…last SEC team to desegregate.

Tide Roll

October 10th, 2011
7:44 am

Georgia Tech will go undefeated this season. At least until we lose to UGA again.

Eric C.

October 10th, 2011
7:55 am

slydog, you have to question the ethics and integrity of the auburn program, not to mention Cam and his father and the dirty money they received

Tide Roll

October 10th, 2011
7:55 am

Bobo messed with Kregg Lumpkin and Gartrell’s kid too. No wonder you can’t get Stephenson kids. The only reason this guy is your offensive coordinator is because he’s Barbara Dooley’s nephew by marriage. What a conflict of interest! Only at Uga.

nash

October 10th, 2011
8:09 am

Anybody wondering if Chris LeMay will see the feild next year or, the year after that or, do people have to assume that if Brice Ramsey goes to Florida then maybe we will see the 2 best Qb coming out last year play in a game

DTC

October 10th, 2011
8:14 am

Everybody seems to forget that he was a nobody, did nothing, wasn’t going anywhere, not a first string QB, at Florida, with Urban Meyer.

DeKalb coach

October 10th, 2011
8:15 am

The bigger story was why did Richt go with David Greene over DJ Shockley? Shockley won as many SEC championships in 1 year as Greene did in 3. What a waste of Shockley’s talent. We saw how good David Greene did in the NFL.

DAWG

October 10th, 2011
8:15 am

WHY DID HE LEAVE FLORIDA??????

dap01

October 10th, 2011
8:16 am

UGA did not flash enough cash to Cam (I meant his Dad).

How Cam or Auburn did not get in trouble is amazing to me. Not even respectable papers will dare write about this flagrant violations. But if a UGA player got a J walking warning, it would be headline news.

dap01

October 10th, 2011
8:19 am

Why is there no story on how Cam was admitted to Auburn when he had had numerous legal troubles as well as a history of academic cheating? How was he admitted?

RTD

October 10th, 2011
8:25 am

Who give’s a damn?!?! I’m glad did not attend UGA.

Proud-Dawg

October 10th, 2011
8:25 am

@dap01….Auburn doesn’t have tough academic standards. You don’t apply, you sign up to go to school in Aberlama.

Mr. Obvious

October 10th, 2011
8:27 am

UGA wasn’t willing to meet the a$king price of Cam’s father.

Mr. Obvious

October 10th, 2011
8:29 am

Also, Mark Richt only proactively tries to recruit “talent” that he can convert to Christianity, so a son of a… [ahem] “preacher” like Rev. Newton wouldn’t qualify.

Tide Roll

October 10th, 2011
8:29 am

I need more adult diapers. I’ll just ask some tech students for them.

Foothills

October 10th, 2011
8:31 am

Nice try Michael but no story here…he would have been a square peg in UGAG system and would have ended up at JAX St. or the like. No way he would have competed with Stafford who is the best QB in the conference since Manning.

RxDawg

October 10th, 2011
8:33 am

sigh… why does this terd have to be so dadgum good on the field?

sogadog

October 10th, 2011
8:34 am

Hindsight is always 20/20.

Matthews Dawg

October 10th, 2011
8:35 am

Carvell….way to stir the pot this morning. I live in Charlotte and yes Cam has made this town buzz!! But, why not question ALL of the other SEC/ACC teams that didn’t recruit Cam or didn’t recruit him as a QB. This was just an article to get hits on the blog and also get the HATERS popping off about CMR. Let the guy enjoy his 100th and how about 1 week of positive only articles? Oh, that’s right, that doesn’t sell like controversial articles. This again is beating a dead horse!! Let’s focus on Vandy and how we need to take care of business!! Go Dawgs!!

Send'em Uhauls

October 10th, 2011
8:38 am

Just another reason UGA should run these clowns out of Athens. Mike Bozo is an idiot.

westlake football

October 10th, 2011
8:39 am

I still cant believe
i played football with this guy and he did all this

Send'em Uhauls

October 10th, 2011
8:40 am

Hire Chad Morris at Clemson!

WOW

October 10th, 2011
8:40 am

LOGAN FREAKIN GRAY OVER CAM???????????????????????

Honders LLC

October 10th, 2011
8:41 am

@Matthews Dawg, um maybe because Cam was from right down the road in Atlanta and a Georgia lock before Bobo blew it for …… LOGAN GRAY. Other SEC schools? Yeah, he was going to sign with Vanderbilt? Good one there pal