Cam Newton wants to prove he's got one more comeback left in him
The Auburn legend returned to the field Tuesday to help his younger brother — and show all 32 NFL teams that "he's still got it."
(Austin Perryman/Auburn Athletics)
There are three retired numbers hanging over one of the end zones of the indoor practice field inside Auburn’s new football facility: 7 for Pat Sullivan, 88 for Terry Beasley and 34 for Bo Jackson.
Right now, 2 isn’t up there. But it could be one day. It probably will be one day.
And even if it’s not up there right now, it might as well be. No Auburn football player has worn the No. 2 jersey since Cam Newton left the Plains after a 2010 season that will go down as one of the best ever by any player at the college level.
Sullivan and Jackson both won the Heisman Trophy, just like Newton did. But neither of them led the Tigers to a national title like Newton did. The proof of that accomplishment is hanging over the other end zone of the indoor practice field: a familiar orange-and-blue “2010 National Champions” shield.
Stand anywhere in the football facility at Auburn, and there’s probably some sort of reminder of Newton near you — whether it’s a championship trophy, a sign with his name on it or a highlight reel from his NFL career.
Newton might have been a Tiger for a year, but there’s no denying his impact on the program.
“He's basically the reason why this generation comes to Auburn,” Colby Wooden said Tuesday afternoon, standing in that same end zone.
Newton’s most memorable performance in that 2010 championship season was an improbable comeback win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl.
So, on Tuesday afternoon, it was fitting to see that Newton’s last chance at a comeback was starting at Auburn.
Newton was on top of the college football world in 2010 at Auburn. Five years later, he was about as close as you can be to the top of the pro football world with the Carolina Panthers. He had been a No. 1 overall pick and an Offensive Rookie of the Year. In 2015, he led Carolina to a 15-1 record in the regular season and became NFL MVP before a loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
Injuries plagued the rest of his first stint in Carolina, and then he failed to stick as the longterm starting quarterback for the New England Patriots in 2020. A midseason return to the Panthers in 2021 didn’t work out, as he went winless as a starter and was benched for the final two games.
Then, in 2022, nobody signed Newton. And the fact that there’s a league full of quarterbacks that doesn’t include him right now seems to still irritate him, as he said in a video posted to Twitter on Monday night.
“Tell me how these randoms keep getting jobs?” Newton said in the video. “Don’t worry about it. I’m gonna show you. I can’t wait to show you.”
Newton’s video was his way of announcing to the football world that he would be throwing at Auburn’s Pro Day.
It was a move engineered by his younger brother Caylin Newton, who transferred to William & Mary after the 2021 season but was welcome back to the Plains to participate in Pro Day — something that happens from time to time for former Tigers who drop down to smaller schools.
“I was like, ‘Man, let’s do something that hasn’t been done before. Let’s do things the right way. Let’s cap off our Auburn journey,’” the younger Newton said Tuesday. (The older Newton declined to do interviews.) “He’s graduated from here. I’ve graduated from here. … I knew he would say yes, just because of what he’s going through, what I’m going through. Both of our journeys just kind of met right here at Pro Day.
“It was an unbelievable moment just to say, ‘Hey, bro, you mind throwing to me?’ His reaction was mouth open, shocked. ‘Wow. Of course.’ That was an unbelievable moment for us both.”
Cam had a captive audience Tuesday in Auburn. Representatives from all 32 NFL teams were in attendance. If there was a chance he was going to get back on anybody’s radar, this would be his best shot.
But Caylin said that this wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment job interview for the former superstar. This was a family thing — and the NFL eyeballs being back on Cam were a nice bonus.
“This was him showing love to me,” Caylin said. “He doesn’t owe anybody anything. He has had an amazing journey, an amazing career in the NFL. He has nothing to prove to anybody. ... He came to show his ability, show he still has it.
“I think, for him, this was a selfless act. But it was also to show and prove to everybody he’s not sitting around.”