Caldwell Column: Hope Springs Eternal

Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.--Anonymous

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs speak to a local charitable organization's fundraiser event and the theme of his speech was hope.

He talked about the hope that his Auburn teammate, Bo Jackson, brought to the football program when he Jackson came to the Plains after he was told he wouldn't play early if he chose Alabama. Deciding to side with Coach Pat Dye and help to turn around the Auburn program, Jackson had a great first season that included the celebrated "Bo Over the Top" touchdown run to lead Auburn to victory over Alabama in 1982 allowing the Tigers to end a losing streak vs. their archrival.

Three seasons ago I saw another exciting Tiger newcomer give his team hope when Cam Newton broke loose for a 71-yard run against Arkansas State in the second quarter of the 2010 season opener. While Newton had lots of accolades coming out of junior college, nobody was quite sure what Auburn had in the big junior college transfer quarterback. It didn't take long to find out

Finishing the night with 171 yards and two touchdowns on the ground while adding 186 yards and three more scores through the air, Newton immediately gave the Auburn offense a scoring threat from anywhere on the field and that meant hope for a program hungry for a championship season.

The performance impressed Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts so much that he left Auburn that night with a good idea what teams would find out week after week facing the Tigers.

"I don't know if I have seen an individual performance better than Cam Newton's," Roberts said. "He is the best player I have ever seen live. He made a huge difference in the ball game tonight, he is hard to bring down."

Cam is all smiles following one of his five TDs vs. Arkansas State.

It was just the first of many standout performances for Newton on the way to winning the Heisman Trophy as he led Auburn to the BCS National Championship. Not only was it what Newton's ability allowed him to do on the field that made an impact for the Tigers, once again it was that hope that anything was possible.

Hope was something missing from Auburn's dismal 2012 season. Playing with passion in a week one loss to Clemson and still fighting three weeks later in a 12-10 loss to LSU at home, the Tigers came back from an off-week to face Arkansas and you could see a different team on the field. It was a group that had lost all hope.

Falling 24-7 to a Razorback team on the brink of collapse itself, Auburn's season went down the drain on the way to a 3-9 finish and a coaching change.

Fast forward nine months and Auburn is ready to kick off the 2013 season under the guidance of Gus Malzahn. The man who put Newton in position to make those plays in 2010, Malzahn's presence gave the Tigers a jolt of electricity heading into the offseason and spring practice.

Now with the opening kickoff almost here, Auburn is looking for that spark of hope once again. It could come in the form of another junior college transfer, this one named Nick Marshall.

A former Georgia defensive back, Marshall has all the physical tools to be a huge success on the Plains. While there are going to be growing pains as he tries to find his groove at the position in the rough and tumble SEC, months from now we could look back on this opener as the night Auburn got its hope back.

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