UK football

Woodson takes Newton under his wing

Newton looks up to Mentor

jsmith3@herald-leader.comJuly 24, 2011 

It's a moment that stuck with Morgan Newton.

It's the moment he wanted to be a Wildcat.

It was the moment Newton stood with his family in Commonwealth Stadium and watched then-Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson connect with receiver Stevie Johnson for a 57-yard touchdown pass with less than 30 seconds to play to top Louisville in 2007.

"It's one of those images that stayed with me," said Newton, who is now UK's junior quarterback.

Woodson was a big part of getting the highly touted Newton to UK, and now one of the Cats' most prolific quarterbacks is hoping to be a big part of helping Newton make similar highlights of his own.

As a student assistant coach at Kentucky this year, Woodson has worked closely with Newton, and all involved would like to see Newton reach even greater heights than his mentor.

"With Andre being back on our staff and back as a part of this program, it's been big for Morgan's development," Cats Coach Joker Phillips said at Southeastern Conference Media Days this week.

Sure, coaches are great.

Newton loves offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders.

But there's something about learning from a guy close in age who has been there before.

That someone is Woodson, who finished his UK career with 9,360 yards and 79 touchdowns.

"He's been real valuable," Newton said. "He's done it. He's seen the NFL, been toward the top in the SEC and toward the bottom, too. He's seen it all. Having a guy like that on your side is helpful.

"Having him around this spring was awesome, having a guy that's been through it and done it before."

Although, Newton said with a sarcastic smile, he could do without having to watch all of Woodson's highlight films.

"I can't tell you how many times I've seen Andre's stuff, and Andre talks about it too much," Newton said with a laugh. "I can't tell you how much time I've spent watching Andre and how they were successful and watching the last few years and how we could have been more successful."

Woodson couldn't help but laugh when told of Newton's complaints. The former New York Giants and Washington Redskins player said he tries to use the films as a teaching tool.

Woodson is able to show Newton a play and go over all of the possible checks from the line of scrimmage. The two study the film and discuss what Newton sees and what Woodson ultimately decided to do. It should help Newton become more of a natural making decisions at the line of scrimmage, Woodson explained.

"He has all the tools," Woodson said of Newton. "And the way he's working and watching film, and understanding how to compete, the sky's the limit for him.

"We're definitely looking for a huge season out of him and the way he's been working and the way he's been practicing, I truly believe that he's going to have a huge junior year," Woodson continued, sounding more and more like the college coach he aspires to be.

With weapons like Randall Cobb, Mike Hartline and Derrick Locke gone, UK is going to need Newton to make the big plays.

Phillips is already seeing signs of Newton becoming more than just a big arm for Kentucky.

"He's one of our leaders on offense," Phillips said. "The guy walks different. He talks different now ... It's important for our quarterback to have confidence. It's important for our kids to know our quarterback has confidence."

Woodson also has seen Newton's confidence grow.

"You can tell he wants to be great, that he doesn't just want to go out there and be given anything or to be average," Woodson said. "That's the reason he will be great."

Maybe even great enough to make the big play that convinces another highly touted high school quarterback to come to Kentucky.

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