People go to community colleges for a lot of reasons. Sometimes they just want to learn for the sake of learning; sometimes they can’t afford a university degree; sometimes they’re looking for vocational training and don’t need a bachelor’s degree to do what they want to do; and sometimes they need a place to study while they’re trying to get into a four-year program elsewhere.
For the most part, Cam Newton’s time at Blinn College in Brenham was about the latter. When he went to Blinn, it was after he’d had some legal trouble at the University of Florida—Newton was suspended from the team and faced criminal charges for purchasing a stolen laptop and attempting to hide the computer from police. (The charges were dropped after Newton completed a pre-trial diversion program.) The quarterback left Florida to spend a year at Blinn, rehabilitating his image and earning the program a NJCAA championship during his sole season leading the Blinn College Buccaneers.
But like a trophy partner on the rebound, Newton didn’t stick around Blinn long—but that was never the point. Blinn’s produced a handful of pro athletes before: journeyman NFL players Quincy Morgan, Chris Johnson (not the famous one), and Chris Brazzell all got their start at Blinn. Decades earlier, longtime Buffalo Bills linebacker Shane Nelson did the same. In basketball, Miami Heat star Chris Andersen—the white guy with all the tattoos—did a year at Blinn before going semi-pro, playing in the D-league, and then working his way into the NBA.
That’s a lot for a community college to be proud of, but none of that comes anywhere near the glamor of having the (presumptive) NFL MVP and a Super Bowl quarterback claim Blinn as the place where he matured into the man he is today. As Newton told Yahoo! Sports before he was drafted in 2011:
Less than two years after Cecil dropped him off at junior college as a depressed and uncertain kid, Cam Newton declared for the NFL draft and told everyone he should be the top pick because “everywhere I’ve been, I’ve won. I’ve thrived off the word ‘win.’ “
He no longer saw his missteps as a negative, but a turning point he was proud to discuss with would-be teams.
“I have no regrets,” Cam told Yahoo Sports before the draft. “Yeah, I made mistakes.”
He may never have made it, without making them.
“My maturation was a product of going to Brenham, Texas, and Blinn College,” Cam said.
A detour through community college is an unlikely path to the number one overall draft pick and NFL stardom, but not only does Cam Newton claim Blinn—Blinn definitely claims Cam.
Social media for Blinn right now is basically a collection of scholarship updates (shout out to Kayli Burton, who just received $1,000!) and Cam celebrations. The school’s Facebook header is a collection of shots of the quarterback from his Blinn days. When the Carolina Panthers won the NFC Championship game in late January, their post celebrating Cam’s success was shared by more than 1,500 students and alumni. Current Blinn athletes made a video cheering him on. When USA Today suggested that Panthers bandwagon-hoppers should go back to Cam’s roots and pick up a Blinn t-shirt, the school boasted about it on Facebook. The school’s shared highlights videos of his time in blue and white (er, Blinn blue and white, not Carolina blue and white) on YouTube.
All of this is plenty fun, and it’s a cool story about a community college in a part of Texas best known for ice cream. Cam Newton is playing for the biggest title in football on Sunday, and he already earned himself an NCAA National Championship in his post-Blinn time at Auburn. But his first championship on the football field happened at Blinn College, and like Luis Guzman’s time at Greendale, it’s a reminder to Blinn students that the future can take them anywhere—even to one of the biggest stages in the world.