Published Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011 | 12:30 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011 | 12:31 p.m.
I think Auburn quarterback Cam Newton might be the best college football player I've ever seen.
A quarterback with his size (6-foot-6, 250-pounds) who can run and pass like he can is rare. But what makes him the best is how he comes to play every game. He didn't have a bad game all year.
What he did at Auburn in leading them to the national title is amazing. Nobody had Auburn as a contender at the beginning of the year.
Before Auburn's big rivalry game with Alabama, I was listening to the Southeastern Conference radio station on Sirius Satellite Radio, and all of the talk was about 'Bama and how they would kill Auburn. Well, it wound up being Auburn winning all because of Cam Newton.
I'm glad that kid is having so much success — he seems like such a nice young man during the interviews I've heard with him. He'll go down as one of the best.
I saw how crazy those Auburn fans are for that football team when we played there in 1987. We flew in on a Saturday and watched Auburn play Florida. Those fans are amazing. It is such a football school.
I don't think people outside of the South realize how intense that rivalry is with Alabama. When a kid is born in the state, he immediately becomes an Auburn or Alabama fan.
That year Auburn basketball played the old Soviet Union in an exhibition game. It was the only time in history when half of the state was cheering for Russia — that's how bad the fans of those schools disagree.
We beat them by 20 points with UNLV in 1987. It was a payback for losing in the second round to Auburn of the NCAA Tournament the previous year, one year before we went to the Final Four for the second time.
I remember the coaches' meeting prior to the NCAA Tournament in 1986, when they assign which bench you'll sit on and who is going to referee your game. They assigned three officials from the SEC for our game with Auburn.
Having three officials from Auburn's conference wasn't fair, so I raised my hand and said: "Those are three SEC officials, that's not right." They chairman responded: "No Tark, those are three NCAA officials."
The NCAA would have never done that to Dean Smith or Denny Crum, but it was something we had to deal with.
It's so fun talking about rivalries we had at UNLV with different schools. We would play anyone, anytime and anywhere.