The Name Game
By BJ Bennett
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin. Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page
Just because they are similar in size, physical ability and have the same last name, don't expect Morgan Newton to be Cam.
The Newton name is now one that resounds throughout college football's top conference; 51 total touchdowns in a single season, a Heisman Trophy and a BCS National Championship will do that. In just a few short months Cameron Newton went from a little-known former Florida backup turned JUCO prospect to the game's next big thing. While he has taken his game to a disjointed jumble formerly known as the NFL, the SEC hasn't seen the last of Newton. Another up-and-comer, this one from the Bluegrass State, has patiently been waiting his turn.
Kentucky quarterback Morgan Newton stands 6'4'', weighs nearly 240 pounds and has already started crafting his legacy in Lexington. In 2009, as a wide-eyed freshman from Carmel, Indiana, he was thrust into the lineup and helped lead the Wildcats to wins over Auburn and Georgia among others. He rushed for a score against the Tigers, threw for three against the Bulldogs and earned Freshman All-SEC honors in the baptism-by fire process.
He was limited to backup status this past fall before injuries again had him in the lineup, this time against Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Despite not attempting more than four passes in a single game all season, Newton stepped in and completed 21-of-36 passes for 211 yards. He performed admirably filling in for Mike Hartline, though Kentucky lost to one of the Big East co-champions by 17.
With Hartline, the SEC East's leading passer in 2010, having graduated, the offense is now Newton's. Without all-conference wide receiver Randall Cobb and versatile tailback Derrick Locke, the Wildcats will look to the now junior for consistency. His mission is simple: help the 'Cats stretch their consecutive bowl game streak to six, the longest in school history.
While he has yet to settle into a full-time starting role, Newton's prep credentials suggested it would only be a matter of time. He was named an All-American by The Sporting News, SuperPrep, MaxPreps and ESPN. He was Mr. Football in the state of Indiana and also the Hoosier Gatorade Player of the Year. Beyond his athletic triumphs, his extra-curricular work showed signs of leadership at a young age. He was a member of the Student Advisory Committee, the Student-Athlete Advisory Board and the Diversity Club. Newton was also apart of the NCAA's "Stay in Bounds" project and spoke to elementary school students in the area. He graduated from high school with honors.
This year's Newton isn't focused on individual fame or hoisting a crystal ball come mid January of next year. He may not be a regular in the national press, a winner of college football's most coveted award or a future number one overall draft selection. He does, however, have a a unique skill set, a savvy that few young starters have mastered, the momentum of a strong spring game performance (256 yards, three touchdowns) and the respect and trust of his head coach.
"It's night and day," UK head coach Joker Phillips said of Newton. "If you look at it, he is one of those few guys who played as a freshman. He has started in two bowl games already, and he has two years left. As a freshman, if you saw him after the Music City Bowl, and saw him very little in the season last year, and then playing in the BBVA Compass bowl game, it's night and day. He now understands he is changing protections. His first year, he couldn't have done a lot of those things. He has handled himself in the huddle. I also really like the way he has handled himself at the line of scrimmage."
Just because they are similar in size, physical ability and have the same last name, don't expect Morgan to be Cam. He doesn't need to be. In terms of a relatively anonymous junior coming into his own and taking his team with him, however, we may be seeing deja vu all over again.