The world is running out of superlatives to describe Carolina Panthers and former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. His former offensive coordinator, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, may have dropped the greatest compliment possible during an interview on SportsCenter.
There’s no doubt Newton has been the best player in the NFL during the 2015 season. But Malzahn upped the ante when he told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt that Newton could become the best quarterback of all time.
“He’s got a chance to be one of the best to ever play or the best to ever play,” Malzahn said. “He’s got everything. He’s got a good work ethic, he’s a great competitor, he’s very coachable, he can run, he can make all the throws. He’s got everything that it takes.”
Malzahn helped develop Newton into a Heisman Trophy winner and the first overall pick of the 2011 draft when he served as Auburn’s offensive coordinator under Gene Chizik. Together, the duo helped Auburn win the 2010 national championship behind Newton’s Heisman season.
Newton is putting on a similarly heroic performance in his fifth season with the Panthers. He has carried his Panthers to Super Bowl 50 with what many pundits believe will be an MVP campaign. Malzahn compared Newton’s 2015 season to what he saw at Auburn six years ago.
“Right now he looks like he’s playing at the same level that he was in 2010 when we made the championship run,” Malzahn told Van Pelt. “It looks exactly the same. He’s a confident guy. His teammates are confident in him and it’s his time right now.”
It didn’t take long for Newton to show Malzahn just how special he was. Malzahn highlighted one incredible 54-yard run against South Carolina as the moment he realized that Newton would be a unique player.
“There was quite a few of those. Probably the first one was Week 4 against South Carolina. He took off for about a 50-yard run. He took off from about the 10-yard line and did the Superman in the end zone. That was a wild moment.”
But Newton’s strong arm or elusiveness in the pocket or his uncanny ability to create big plays isn’t what Malzahn said makes Newton a great player. It’s his ability to come up big in the most pivotal moments. As Malzahn said, Newton has “it.”
“That’s the ‘it’ factor,” Malzahn said. The special ones have it. And he definitely showed that year that he had it. As the games got bigger, he played his best. He’s got the ‘it’ factor.”