SAN DIEGO -- The quarterback hoping to be an NFL star couldn't slip something past a Moon.
"He wasn't transferring well," Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon said after interrupting a Cam Newton drill. "He was throwing leaning backward. He has a strong arm, but I don't care how strong an arm you have, if you are not in the right throwing motion you are not going to have good accuracy.
|Cam Newton shares a laugh with quarterbacking mentor Warren Moon (right). (AP)|
Moon is working with quarterback guru George Whitfield in preparing Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn, for the NFL Scouting Combine that begins Feb. 23, and what they hope is a successful NFL career.
Newton put his talents on display Thursday at a San Diego-area high school, with about 100 media members in attendance for his hour-long workout.
This wasn't Newton's pro day or a combine event, so NFL personnel types weren't on site. But Moon was, and from what he saw, Newton's ceiling -- with a tweak or two -- is awfully high.
"It's all about technique and fundaments and as long as he continues to work on them and they become second nature to him, that he doesn't have to think about it, his talent will rise to the top."
That's where he exited the college scene in leading Auburn to the BCS title. But despite his considerable accomplishments and the accolades which followed, will he be a force in the NFL?
Can Newton prove he can direct an offense that isn't run from the spread?
"I can count on one hand how many times I took the snap from under center in one game," Newton said. "Now it's just depends on what scheme you are going to, but you have to be able to get a snap under center and be fluent at it. That is the first thing we tried to tackle and tried to accomplish."
Moon nods in agreement. There's a list of significant college quarterbacks versed in the spread that struggled in the NFL.
"I think a lot of people when they look at guys that ran the spread offense in college, they feel like guys are going to have a tough time making the adjustment to the NFL," Moon said. "We've seen that happen with some guys like Alex Smith and Vince Young that have a tough time making that transition.
"That is what Cam was asked to do in college and he did it to the best of his ability and as good as anybody. But if you have the skills set to play the position and the leadership quality and work ethic and all the things he has, it is just a matter of re-training himself and that is what he is doing right now. It's just a matter of time that he will be doing the same thing at the next level and at a high level."
Newton has heard the talk, heard those doubting what he did at Auburn can be duplicated in the NFL. Newton said that doesn't surprise him and, if anything, makes him work harder.
"I think that is the competitor that I am," he said. "I won't be surprised until I am a Super Bowl champion, and from day one that is what I'm reaching for; shooting for greatness.
"The support staff that I have is pushing me to be great. I'm pushing myself to be great and I demand greatness from myself."
So he works under the soothing San Diego sun, trying to fine-tune a game that was dynamic in college. His mornings are spent on various throwing drills, the afternoons trying to master the chalkboard and the Wunderlic tests.
He alternates his fitness regimen, one day on speed work, the next spent on conditioning.
The hope is Newton erases the question marks about him between now and the April draft. However, Newton was unclear if he would participate in all the combine drills.
"That is something that I have to evaluate with my people," he said. "I'm not sitting up here today saying that I'm not, I'm not sitting up here today thinking that I am."
He leaves weighing the pros and cons of the combine to others. Instead, Newton is focusing on excelling in the NFL.
"I'm just trying to be the best I can be, preparing every single day and focusing on being the best player I know I can be," he said.
Moon knows quarterbacks. Moon knows the NFL. Moon knows Newton won't last long on the draft board.
"I would say at least the top five," said Moon, when asked where he thought Newton would be selected. "This kid is just going to continue to rise throughout the process.
"Everybody right now is kind of wondering what he is going to translate into after only one year of college football and they want to see how his technique and fundamentals translate into the NFL game.
"Once they see that, once he gets to the combine and the individual workout, he will just continue to move up the ladder."
While Moon predicts Newton being a top-five pick, the personable Newton was talking about hanging 10 after Thursday's workout.
"I think I'm having a surfing party at the house," he said, flashing his engaging smile. "Everyone is welcome to come on down to the beach."
Maybe Newton knew the surf was up. If Moon is right, the same goes for Newton's draft stock.
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