INDIANAPOLIS -- No one really knew who George Whitfield Jr. was before Ben Roethlisberger's agent came up with the bright idea of hiring him to work with the Steelers' QB during his four-game suspension to start last season.
When Roethlisberger -- who wasn't allowed to work with his team during that time -- looked mostly sharp after his return and performed well enough to help the Steelers reach the Super Bowl, Whitfield became someone people around the NFL began to notice.
Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, who has served as an advisor to Newton, was responsible for putting the teacher and student together.
Whitfield, 33, has spent the past six weeks working with Newton to prepare him for Sunday's QB drills at the NFL Scouting Combine. The emphasis on the sessions that took place in Whitfield's hometown of San Diego has been to prepare the Heisman Trophy winner to show league talent evaluators he can handle more than just the spread-style offense he has operated at Auburn, Florida and Blinn College in Texas.
"He's much further ahead than the perception of where people think he is, running the spread-option offense," Whitfield told me here earlier Saturday during an interview on Sirius NFL Radio. "Imagine your company car is an automatic. When he got to Florida, he was given a spread deal, he was given the same deal at Blinn, and he was given the same deal at Auburn. It doesn't mean the kid does not know how to drive a manual, stick-shift car."
Whitfield's business card lists him as a "Professional Quarterback Builder." He also likes being called a "Quarterback Doctor" and "Quarterback Mechanic." Just don't call him a trainer, because he doesn't "really spend time with these guys in the weight room on conditioning and things like that."
Whitfield played quarterback at Tiffin University in Ohio and in the Arena Football League. He also worked as a graduate assistant at Iowa and was a training-camp intern under then-San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. During that time, Whitfield worked with all of the Chargers quarterbacks, including Philip Rivers.
That helped pave the way for Whitfield to begin his training center for quarterbacks. He works mostly with high school players, but everything changed when he got the chance to work with Roethlisberger -- and now Newton.
Whitfield has seen rapid development in a quarterback who some draft analysts believe could be a top-three draft pick.
"Once we got on the board, he was very bright, very articulate," Whitfield said. "He could not just lay out coverages and where people belong. He could also give you the indicating factors of why this coverage actually is going to wind up rolling down or why this back-side, boundary corner is actually more aggressive than he looks.
"As a student on the field, he's what I call an 'active learner.' Some guys kind of nod; they just want to get it and let it wash over me and get to the next rep. Cam will stop you and slow you down. (He'll say) 'Let me see that again ... walk me through that ... what is that step for again?'"
All of the workouts are videotaped, and Whitfield and Newton review them every two days. They often watch them standing up, so Whitfield can take Newton through a walk-through while watching the tape.
"I'll leave and come back later and see him still in some corner of the room working at it," Newton said. "He doesn't really repeat the same things and same missteps too many times. I think, as a student, if you have that type of pride, you can kind of leapfrog in your process, no matter what your starting point is."