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Two Patriots make ESPN’s list of the Top 60 college quarterbacks of the 2000s

Related: Ryan Spagnoli’s seven-round mock draft 2.0: Patriots trade up to get their quarterback of the future

FBC-AUBURN-BAMA Photo by Robin Trimarchi/Columbus Ledger-Enquirer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The New England Patriots were set at quarterback for two decades, negating the need for them to invest in high-caliber talent at the position. While players drafted by the club such as Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett went on to enjoy solid careers elsewhere, having Tom Brady meant that any quarterback brought aboard would likely not be a top-tier draft prospect based on his college career.

And yet, two of the 60 best college passers of the century at one point found their way to New England — albeit under entirely different circumstances. ESPN recently released a ranking of the best QBs to play college football since 2000, and both Tim Tebow and Cam Newton cracked it.

4. Tim Tebow, Florida

In 2006, Tebow served as short-yardage back and scary red zone passing option as Florida won the national title.

In 2007, he posted 4,181 combined rushing and passing yards and won the Heisman.

In 2008, he gave an immortal speech and led the Gators to a 13-1 record and second title.

In 2009, he led the Gators to another 13-1 record, posted 3,805 rushing and passing yards and finished in the Heisman top five for a third straight year.

It’s almost impossible to put together a career more complete than that.

Florida Gators legend, first-round NFL draft pick, and, well, New England Patriots training camp participant. Tebow’s career was odd: he was college football’s ultimate weapon for three years and as big a star as any in the sport. His career as a pro did not live up to the hype, however, after he was drafted 25th overall by the Denver Broncos in 2010: he started just 14 games before his release, was unable to carve out a role with the New York Jets, and in 2013 joined the Patriots as a de facto training camp arm. He was released on cutdown day, and had an unsuccessful comeback attempt in Philadelphia two years later.

2. Cam Newton, Auburn

Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest single-season supernova the sport has seen. After two years of backing up Tebow at Florida, Newton won a juco national title at Blinn College, then landed at Auburn and almost single-handedly carried the Tigers to their first AP national title since 1957. His supporting cast was good but not nearly the caliber of Young’s, Tebow’s, etc., but that was fine — he was simultaneously the best running back and quarterback in the sport.

Then he was gone, off to an NFL career that has included an MVP award, more than 31,000 passing yards and a Super Bowl appearance.

Newton arrived in New England in an entirely different environment than his former Florida teammate Tim Tebow. Whereas Tebow had no shot at the starting job, Newton participated in a competition for the QB1 spot in Year One after Tom Brady. The former first overall draft pick won it, but was one of the least effective passers in the NFL in 2020: Newton did look good as a runner and was lauded for his work as a team captain, but he simply failed to pick up what was a struggling passing attack. He is a free agent this year and no lock to return to the Patriots.