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Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning QB Column: Cam-Tastic Win, Dufner Back On Top, Excitement For Baseball

Cam Newton's run to the Super Bowl, Jason Dufner's big win and the excitement surrounding Auburn baseball are featured.


Like most people who got an up close and personal look at Cam Newton in 2010 when he led the Auburn Tigers to the BCS National Championship, it doesn’t surprise me at all to see him on his way to playing in the Super Bowl. One of the biggest competitors I’ve ever been around, Newton combines that with immense talent and is now taking his rightful place as one of the best players in the game after his performance this season.

He capped off what should be an MVP performance this season with one of the best playoff performances in NFL history. Becoming the first quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards and rush for two touchdowns in a playoff game since 1966, Newton was the offensive catalyst in a thrashing of the Arizona Cardinals.

Now Newton gets to line up in Super Bowl 50 against one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game in Peyton Manning. It’s going to be the Panthers vs. Broncos in two weeks, but in the NFL the quarterback is the guy who always gets the attention and this one will be talked about every waking second leading up to the game. With a win Newton could finish one of the best seasons in the long history of the league and firmly establish himself as maybe the best player in the league when the dust settles on the 2015-16 season.

Dufnering Once Again

At the same time Newton was dabbing all over the Cardinals time and time again, Jason Dufner was busy finishing his first win since taking the 2013 PGA Championship and putting himself back in the spotlight in the golf world once again. Coming back after two up and mostly down seasons when dealing with a neck injury and then a divorce, Dufner’s resilience is something that can serve as an inspiration to everyone.

Putting together a solid first tournament in Hawaii and earning a Top 10 result, Dufner was solid from start to finish in winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in a playoff this week. Moving up to eighth in the FedEx Cup standings with the victory, Dufner’s game is rounding into form and that is especially true of his work on the greens. Putting as well as he has in several years, Dufner’s win showed that he can go low and with his ability to play tough courses really well that could mean big things in 2016.

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Great Energy Surrounding Baseball

Butch Thompson hasn’t coached a game yet as Auburn’s head baseball coach, but there is no question that the excitement surrounding the team and his tenure with the Tigers is growing at a rapid pace heading into the season. That was never more evident than this past weekend with the Auburn Diamond Club Preseason Banquet and then a baseball camp at Plainsman Park.

Gathering at Auburn Arena on a very cold Saturday night, around 350 people showed up to meet this year’s team and enjoy a roundtable discussion with former Auburn greats Q.V. Lowe, Rex Frederick, Gabe Gross and Scott Sullivan. It was the highlight of a great evening that Thompson said gave him a chance to sit back, take a deep breath for the first time and realize once again how special this job can be coaching at Auburn.

Perhaps even more telling was the turnout for camps on both Saturday and Sunday. With the entire team splitting days to work alongside the coaches, more than 80 kids showed up for Saturday despite temperatures in the low 30’s with winds howling throughout Plainsman Park. Sunday’s weather was better and the number grew to 140 with many of them top prospects. That interest in the program from high school kids throughout the South is the first sign that kids like what they see and hear from this coaching staff. That’s what it takes to build a baseball program, something Thompson wants to do at Auburn over the long haul.

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