The year of 2015 was a banner one for Auburn sports, even with the football Tigers finishing last in the SEC West, the baseball Tigers placing a distant fifth in the SEC West and the basketball Tigers (2016 carryover) likely not making the NCAA tournament next month.
Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (2005-07 with the Tigers) and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (2010 Heisman Trophy winner) — both Auburn sports heroes — captured MVP honors in their respective sports, with Donaldson (41 HRs, 123 RBI, 122 runs, .297 batting average) winning American League MVP and Newton claiming the NFL MVP trophy.
And thanks to Newton (3,837 yards passing, 45 total TDs in 2015; NFC championship for the 15-1 Panthers), Auburn became just the fourth school in NCAA history to produce at least one league MVP in the major professional sports of football, baseball and basketball, according to AL.com’s research.
The MVP universities include: Michigan State (Earl Morrall, NFL; Kirk Gibson/Steve Garvey, MLB; Earvin “Magic” Johnson, NBA), Texas (Earl Campbell, NFL; Roger Clemens, MLB; Kevin Durant, NBA), UCLA (Bob Waterfield, NFL; Jackie Robinson, MLB; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Bill Walton, NBA) and now Auburn (Cam Newton, NFL; Frank Thomas/Josh Donaldson, MLB; Charles Barkley, NBA).
(For what it’s worth, 1993 was also a banner year for Auburn sports, with Barkley and Thomas collecting their respective MVPs just five months apart.)
The three-sport-MVP accomplishment should be a great selling point for the Auburn athletics program — in various ways.
It might also motivate the school’s big-money boosters to pour more resources into Auburn’s hockey team in an overt attempt to become the first college to produce an MVP for the NFL, NBA, MLB and National Hockey League.
But then again, just like Bo Jackson in the iconic “Bo Knows”/Nike Cross-Trainer commercial from the 1980s, maybe Donaldson, Thomas (2014 MLB Hall of Famer), Barkley or Newton are swift and nimble on ice skates, as well.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.