April 10, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN — A current Auburn student, advertising juggernaut, charity activist, NFL quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner dropped by the Tigers' football practice Wednesday.
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Cam Newton, a man of many hats, checked up on his former Auburn offensive coordinator on a hot spring morning, and said he found his guy — Gus Malzahn — thriving in his new role as the Tigers' head coach.
Newton watched the new Gus Malzahn, and liked it.
"It's always going to be tough for any coach whose heart has been around the offense for so long to have to spread things around," Newton said. "I use the analogy of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There's so much peanut butter on just one side, now you've got to spread out to everybody else. I've seen him with the offensive line, with the defensive line. I'm like, 'You don't see coach down there.' But there he was today, encouraging his guys, getting his guys going."
Newton, who is in back in Auburn working toward his degree, watched the players, for sure, and his old coach.
"I'm so used to Coach Malzahn being so hands-on with the offense," Newton said. "It's fun to see him going over to the defense. I think that was great."
A young Cam Newton would have only seen Malzahn as an offensive coordinator. That was in 2010 when Malzahn turned Newton into a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback while helping the Tigers win the national championship.
"I could see myself — it wasn't too long ago — taking pride running out there and just being coachable," Newton said.
Now, he's old letterman watching practice.
"You wonder if this team is going to be ready, but you look at plays today and you say, 'Wow, guys have the play-making ability.' It's just a patient process that has to go on. The guys on this team have to want it more than the coaches."
Newton said the practices have a familiar ring.
"Nothing has really changed," he said.
Well, maybe a little.
"If anything, I wish they were doing things when I was here. The music, I love the music. Third-down situations, it provides an excellent simulation of the game," Newton said. "You want to be as crisp and fluid as practice, but sometimes things don't go right. Sometimes you can hear the play; sometimes you can see the coach. But sometimes you can't. Sometimes panic happens. Today you were seeing guys who were tired. It was probably the hottest day of the spring out there. Some guys are flourishing. That's what you want to see as a coach."
Just like when Newton arrived?
"It's going to be very, very intriguing to see this whole process come to fruition," Newton said.