Dan Shanoff had a very interesting discussion with Bomani Jones yesterday on who was the better athlete, or who had the best season, Tim Tebow in 2007 or Cam Newton in 2010. And it is well worth a listen.
Newton's season this year was remarkable and it is completely fair to say, season to season, he could be a better player than Tebow. On paper he did have a better season than Tebow did in 2007. Shanoff and Jones also discussed each player in terms of the on and off the field mythologies and what impact that has on both of their legacies.
But a point that neither commented on was how difficult it is to be a trailblazer. Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile and then very quickly others did as well. Breaking the barrier is the real story, and the real triumph, not if other runners are ultimately better athletes, or even men, than Bannister is or was.
Tebow not only broke the Heisman ceiling for Sophomores winning the prize, but broke it by being the first player to break the 20-20 barrier (20 rushing TDs and 20 passing TDs in a single season). Knowing that it could be done made it easier for Newton to follow because he and his play callers knew that such a style of play for a QB was possible. Sometimes being the trailblazer is the more difficult thing because you don't "know" if it can be done or if such limits should even be tested. Tebow accomplished it with arguably less natural talent, and that in the end is all the more amazing.
The 20-20 benchmark and the style of play we see in both Tebow and Newton as QBs may become a new norm of sorts because kids believe it is possible, and their coaches as well, but it is also now a tangible goal the next young "Tebow" or "Newton" can aspire to achieve. Instead of thinking of Tebow as a once in a generation player, hopefully we can think of him as being a trailblazer and benchmark for a whole new level of play.
And because it is still fun to watch. Imagine what it would have been like watching them together in 2009 at Florida.
Godspeed Cam. And may another son of a preacher who wants to play QB, and truck his way to the end zone, find his way to Florida again.