In three years as the starting quarterback at Indiana's Carmel High School, Morgan Newton led his team to the state championship game each season, winning it all as a junior. In those three years, Carmel lost only seven of 45 games.
Bottom line? Newton is a winner.
"He is a competitor and he wants to win. If he can get other guys to come along with him, he will win," declared Dr. John Newton, Morgan's dad, in an interview on The Leach Report radio show earlier this summer.
And it is that competitive spirit that Newton will tap into this week, as he attempts to bounce back from a performance that was disappointing for him and the offensive unit he leads.
As a freshman, Newton was expecting to redshirt only to be thrust into action midway through the season when starter Mike Hartline went down with an injury. Last season, Newton got only mop-up minutes until being once again surprisingly named as the starter for the bowl game when Hartline got suspended. In 2011, Newton knows the job is his and he's had plenty of time to prepare for the campaign.
To me, Newton carried himself with a kind of quiet cockiness--the good kind--throughout August's practices, suggesting he has no doubts about what he's capable of accomplishing.
"Well, I don't know if its cocky. I think it is confidence because he has done really well with sports, he puts the pressure on himself to excel because he is thinking about competing and he will not go out and give a half effort," said Dr. Newton. "He is going to give all that he has in order to win and he has done that through the years and hopefully it will shine through very soon."
Earlier this summer, Newton raised a few eyebrows with a tweet in which he suggested some of his teammates weren't showing up often enough for some voluntary workouts. Dr. Newton said his son realized that was not the best way to get his message across.
"He has said the guys have been responding to his communication and I think he found out very quickly that tweeting was not the best way to communicate with these guys. That is what the young guys are doing now but you need to clean it up a bit and make sure it doesn't give direction in a negative manner," Dr. Newton noted. "Morgan needs to step up with his communication and I tell you something else, he went and helped out at the Manning Camp and he picked up a whole lot of things from Peyton and Eli and Archie and Cooper and has developed friendships with some of the big quarterbacks from the other schools like the Luck kid (at Stanford), the Moore kid from Boise (State).
"Being around those guys and hearing what they will do for their team, I think helped him a bunch and hopefully the guys will listen because I think Kentucky football is just a hair away from taking things to the next level," he added. "It is how those fellas carry themselves and their attitude toward winning, their swagger about winning. Some of the guys are not bigger than he is and don't throw any better, but it's the attitude and if our guys can get that attitude, (Morgan) thinks they can compete with anyone in the South there. So he is just making sure that everybody has the attitude about winning."
Dr. Newton has seen more maturity than ever from his son this summer and a willingness to be more of a verbal leader.
"He also doesn't mind teaching guys what they need to know, he is a good instructor in letting guys know where they need to be and when they need to be there," said Dr. Newton. "Morgan, how he usually leads is socially he gets around the guys or goes one-on-one and visits with them and that sort of thing. He has stepped it up and has spent time working out with the offensive lineman and he has guys on defense that are his friends and he is trying to change the attitude and trying to get on this winning trend and he wants to be the messenger for that."
After quarterbacking the Cats to wins at places like Auburn and Georgia in 2009, Newton was confident in his chances of winning the starting job last August. When Joker Phillips named Hartline the starter, Newton's body language conveyed his disappointment but his dad says Morgan grew from that experience.
"You saw a little body language from Morgan but he doesn't bend very much from the highs and the lows of football. He is a very even keel guy and there was a perception out there that he was down a lot with the initial announcement-- and he was down a little bit--but he is a competitor and he wants to win at everything he does and if he is around the house or if he is out at the playground with young kids playing four square, he is trying to beat them, he is trying to win," explained Dr. Newton. "There was a competition all the way through and he was trying to get better and learn from Mike and he snapped out of it and hopefully we will see some fruits of his accomplishments of working through summer."
To that, Big Blue fans would say "amen."