Auburn using Cam Newton's success to its advantage in recruiting

Malzahn remembers Newton's magical Auburn season (2:47)

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn joins SVP to explain when he realized Cam Newton was an exceptional player and how his play in the NFL is comparing to his play in college. (2:47)

Love him or hate him, Cam Newton has captured the attention of every sports fan in America. From the dabbing to the Superman celebration to the crazy outfits, everybody will be watching Super Bowl 50 this Sunday to see what he's going to do next.

The season that Newton is currently having, one that will likely end up with the NFL's MVP award and possibly a Super Bowl ring, is not all that different from his lone season at Auburn, when he scored 51 combined touchdowns, won the Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to an undefeated season and a national championship.

And Auburn, which just signed another top-10 recruiting class Wednesday, is taking full advantage of one of its own.

There have been the constant mentions of Newton on social media, including a "War Eagle" from Newton at the Super Bowl media days or Wednesday's tweet that read, "One of our former signees is doing BIG things in the @NFL. Perhaps you've heard of him."

During the offseason, Newton would return to Auburn to work on his degree, and while there, he would interact with potential recruits. ESPN 300 wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers, who signed with Auburn on Wednesday, met with Newton on a visit this past summer.

"It was pretty cool," Craig-Myers said. "Coach [Gus] Malzahn knew I liked the Panthers and he knew I was a big Cam fan, so he wanted to get it worked out. I talked with him, and he was a pretty cool guy. He's not uptight. If you just saw him around, you wouldn't know that he's a football player."

Malzahn, who was Newton's offensive coordinator at Auburn, has embraced that relationship with his former pupil. He even made an attempt at dabbing after his team won the Birmingham Bowl this past December. He understands that Newton's ties to the school can benefit Auburn on the recruiting trail.

"It definitely helps," Malzahn said Wednesday. "Every quarterback wants to be the next Cam Newton, and he's doing pretty good right now, so I'd say that definitely helps."

It helped with ESPN 300 quarterback Woody Barrett, who signed with Auburn on Wednesday.

At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Barrett has already drawn comparisons to Newton for his ability to make plays with both his arm and his legs, and so it only made sense he would follow Newton's path to Auburn.

"Anybody that watches [Woody] play probably says the same thing: 'Man, this guy plays just like Cam Newton,'" Barrett's former offensive coordinator Collin Drafts said. "With Gus Malzahn's success with a quarterback that is very similar to Woody, I think that made him feel comfortable with the type of offense they run, what they're able to accomplish.

"And then seeing Cam -- won a national championship, won the Heisman Trophy -- it makes Auburn even more enticing for that type of quarterback."

It also didn't hurt that Barrett is one of Newton's biggest fans.

"To be honest, I kind of became an Auburn fan because of Cam Newton and the way he carried the team on his back," Barrett said. "I feel like I can do the same thing."

He's not the only recruit who has become an Auburn fan because of Newton. Craig-Myers grew up an Ohio State fan but changed his allegiance to Auburn after Newton's 2010 season. The same goes for Joey Gatewood, a 2018 quarterback who is already committed to the Tigers.

Like Barrett, Gatewood has drawn comparisons to Newton. And he's only a sophomore in high school.

"It's been that way my whole life," Gatewood said. "Every time, it's 'You remind me of Cam. You look just like him. You've got his size.' It doesn't bring any pressure. It's just something you hear. It doesn't really affect me."

But Gatewood wants to run the same offense Newton ran while he was at Auburn. He wants to get coached by Malzahn and Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. If it were up to him, he'd wear the same No. 2 that Newton wore.

"He's my idol," Gatewood said.

This Sunday, Gatewood, Barrett, Craig-Myers and every other signee or potential recruit will be watching Newton in the Super Bowl. They all want to see what he'll do next so they can emulate it.

And for Auburn, what better recruiting tool is there?