Cam Newton might have only played for the Auburn Tigers for one season, but it’s no secret he’s the best quarterback in school history. What he accomplished in just 14 college football games is the stuff of legends. It all started with an unworldly debut against Arkansas State, too.
Everyone knew Newton had talent when he arrived on The Plains from Blinn College. The only question was whether he could compete at the highest level. He answered that rather quickly.
In his first game at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Newton, who started his career behind Tim Tebow at Florida, racked up 357 total yards of offense with five total touchdowns in a cruising 52-26 victory. He was magnificent, to say the least, and was just a preview for more greatness to come.
Cam Newton’s Auburn Debut vs. Arkansas State
If you’re wondering what exactly Auburn quarterback Cam Newton did in his Tigers debut, we could be here all day and night on ESPN. Honestly, there wasn’t much he didn’t do. He was the best football player on the field, and there really wasn’t even a close second.
Newton went 9-for-14 for 186 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions through the air, while adding 171 yards on 15 carries and two more scores on the ground. How easy he made it look was the best part. Head coach Gene Chizik and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn had it pretty easy that night.
He tossed a 36-yard touchdown pass to Mario Fannin in the first quarter. He bullied his way for a two-yard score, found wide receiver Quindarius Carr for a 48-yard touchdown, and busted a 71-yard run for another touchdown in the second quarter.
Then, after halftime, Newton added another touchdown pass to Fannin midway through the third quarter before enjoying some time on the sidelines.
“I don’t know if I have seen an individual performance better than Cam Newton,” Arkansas State head coach Steve Roberts said. “He is the best player I have ever seen live.”
Newton’s 171 rushing yards were the most by a quarterback in Auburn football history (he later shattered that), while his 71-yard touchdown run was the longest run in five seasons. He was named the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week for his performance.
The rest of that NCAA football season was much of the same. Auburn University cruised through the SEC — taking down ranked teams such as South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU, and Alabama —, beat South Carolina again in the SEC Championship Game on CBS in Atlanta, and took down Oregon in the BCS National Championship Game.
Newton, after recording 30 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns, was a Consensus All-American and the Heisman Trophy winner. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers, where he won Rookie of the Year, the 2015 NFL MVP and NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and earned three Pro Bowl selections before signing with the New England Patriots during the 2020 offseason.
What he did for the Auburn football team will never be forgotten. It’s one of the greatest single seasons in FBS history. His debut against Arkansas State might never be topped, either.