For over 70 years, the famed Heisman trophy has been awarded to college football's most outstanding player. With storied names such as Ernie Davis, Archie Griffin and Earl Campbell all linked to the treasured prize, every time a new recipient is introduced into the fellowship there is going to be a lot of praise and honor directed at the given player.
Last year, Auburn's Cam Newton received the award after an unbelievable senior campaign that was capped off with the ultimate prize in college football: the National Championship.
In what was a jaw-dropping season, Newton, who went from the University of Florida to Blinn College (JUCO) before landing with Auburn, set multiple SEC records in just one season of work and collected numerous honors ranging from the SEC Offensive Player of the Year to the Maxwell Award.
Taking a year off from Division I football clearly did not affect the future No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson was about to hang up his football cleats in favor of his baseball glove after being released from his athletic scholarship on April 29. The senior was drafted by the Colorado Rockies; however, the two-sport athlete wasn't fully convinced that baseball was the path he wanted to follow and decided to put his baseball career on hold in order to fulfill his final year of eligibility in college football.
In late July, Wilson decided to attend Wisconsin over (ironically) Auburn -- the former school of Newton.
With just one month to learn a new offense, get back in football shape, and develop chemistry with his new teammates, Wilson knew he was in for a challenging task.
Well, that so-called "challenge" has been nothing more than cake-walk for Wilson.
In his first five games with Wisconsin, Wilson has totaled 1,391 passing yards and 13 touchdowns to go along with his 216.9 rating. The Virginia native has also amassed 140 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Coincidentally, those numbers resemble those of the reigning Heisman trophy winner.
Newton compiled a 194.72 rating with 928 passing yards and 12 touchdowns over the course of the first five games of the 2010 season. One year removed from JUCO, Newton proved to be one of the most dangerous runners in the nation, recording 474 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
The two -- aside from passing yards and rushing yards (due to Newton's increased likelihood to run compared to Wilson's lack thereof) -- are nearly identical in total touchdowns and more importantly, in overall season records: both Auburn and Wisconsin started off 5-0.
Newton (JUCO to SEC) and Wilson (ACC to Big Ten) also had the challenge of competing in a new, more demanding conference than what they previously dealt with, yet both of them shined in their debut conference game. Auburn's dual-threat quarterback defeated South Carolina in his debut, totaling 334 yards of offense and five touchdowns. Similar to Newton, Wilson excelled in his Big Ten debut victory over then No. 8 Nebraska as he totaled 287 yards and three touchdowns.
Both players emerged onto their new campuses with the odds stacked against them and something to prove. For Newton, he needed to overcome the adversity stemming from his off-the-field troubles while Wilson had to establish the fact that his decision to forgo his baseball career for another year of college football was the right choice.
The duo passed their tests with flying colors.
If all goes according to plan, and Wilson is, indeed, the next Cam Newton, then he could have a few pieces of hardware coming his way soon as well as college football's holy grail.
- Josh Harvey -