It was a hot, humid June day in Columbia, S.C.

I was watching then-South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier and his staff conduct a camp and saw a 6-foot-5 quarterback on the practice field. This guy looked the part athletically and at times displayed outstanding arm strength. At other times, he could not hit the broad side of a barn and would one-hop out routes to receivers.

Yes, on that summer day Cam Newton was not all that impressive in front of Spurrier and the onlookers in Columbia. The Gamecocks offered him a scholarship, though, as a tight end, and never were involved with him much beyond that point.

I was working for Rivals at the time and assigned Newton a high three-star rating (5.7) following such an uninspiring passing performance — not a low grade, but a cautious one. Two months earlier at the Athens Nike Football Training Camp, Newton had thrown the ball in the same erratic manner, so being a young evaluator in the recruiting media industry, like so many do, I put a bunch of stock in a camp performance and did not rank Newton among the elite prospects in the 2007 recruiting cycle at that time.

This was a dumb mistake, but one thankfully I was able to atone for.

Fast-forward to December of that year and the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. For that single recruiting cycle, Rivals was the selection partner for the event (this was before there was an Under Armour All-America Game and Scout was selecting the U.S. Army All-American Bowl) and we selected some outstanding talent. Dez Bryant was a receiver for the West. Rolando McClain, Joe Haden, Golden Tate, Casey Matthews, and Ryan Broyles all were part of the game, along with Newton, who was one of two quarterbacks for the East.

Newton was brilliant the entire week and showed improved accuracy in throwing the football. There was clear progress that had been made, even though he wasn’t perfect (nobody is). We noted that he had good leadership qualities and his teammates enjoyed being around him and he was certainly set to rise in our rankings.

Then the game happened. Newton was incredible. He threw it. He ran it and that 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame combined with what he did on the field in live competition that day screamed five-star. My colleagues at the time — Bobby Burton and Mike Farrell — agreed and we ranked Newton five stars out of high school, the only recruiting media outlet to do so.

Newton committed to Florida, where we felt he could do special things in Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen’s offensive scheme. After getting kicked off the team in Gainesville and detouring to Blinn Junior College, Newton signed with Auburn, where he won the Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to the National Championship in 2010. Ironically, Wes Byrum, who was one of the kickers in that Offense-Defense All-American Bowl back then, made the game-winning kick for the Tigers in their 22-19 win against Oregon in the BCS National Championship Game, Newton’s final college game.

Now, after being the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, he has won an MVP and is leading the Carolina Panthers to their second Super Bowl.

Not bad for a guy who we all thought could not throw.