He is a tall, handsome young man with striking features, a broad, chiseled chin and a big, bright smile that lights up a room like several hundred halogen lamps. As one woman told me, he could be a male model during the offseason.
In short, Cam Newton has charisma, confidence and is very poised for a young man. While his youthfulness still shines through, along with moments of immaturity, he has grown up quickly in the last several years.
He grew up in College Park, Ga., a very rough area outside of Atlanta. He attended Westlake High School, where he was a star athlete. Newton was offered football scholarships from several universities, including Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech, but committed to the Gators his senior year.
He was a good student, graduated early and enrolled at Florida in the winter of 2007. The early arrival gave him a leg-up in the battle for Tim Tebow’s backup spot. Even though he showed flashes of brilliance in limited action, his stay at Florida was short-lived.
Newton had issues with academics. Rumors of cheating and having others take tests circulated around campus. He was arrested and charged with stealing a student’s laptop. Then, he was granted a redshirt year. A short time later, he was suspended by coach Urban Meyer and, after the season, chose to transfer.
Newtonlanded on his feet and enrolled at Blinn College in Brenham, Tex., a step back from the lavish settings of Gainesville, Fla. In his only season at the junior-college level of competition, the sophomore led his team to an 11-1 record and the NJCAA national championship.
Working hard to get back to the Division I level, he turned to several colleges and universities that recruited him out of high school. He reached back and rekindled those relationships with Auburn, Arizona, Kansas State, Mississippi State, North Carolina and Oklahoma. Newton was the only quarterback from the high school and junior-college ranks to receive a five-star rating from Rivals.com.
While at Auburn, Newton’s exploits at the beginning of the 2010 season made for great football. Then came more drama. His father, Cecil, became the target of an NCAA investigation, which encompassed the FBI as well.
Cam Newton stood tall and faced the media like a man, but still retained that childlike grin in the midst of a situation that would have shattered most adults. (In my opinion, kids should not be held accountable or considered guilty for the sins of their parents.) He went on to become one of the most decorated college football players in history, receiving the following awards in 2010: the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Davie O’Brien Award, Walter Camp Player of the Year, SEC Player of the Year and All-American selection of the Walter Camp Foundation, AFCA and Associated Press.
A lot of people see Cam Newton as a snake-oil salesman, especially after those now-infamous “entertainer and icon” comments. I’ve heard people allege Meyer has been a gentleman to not spill the beans on other issues that supposedly occurred at Florida, but which weren’t even reported. From a football standpoint, some are saying, “I don’t trust him and that smile. Can he lead 53 men to battle on the football field?” Some evaluators are comparing his athletic ability and size to Daunte Culpepper, but also think his silver cloud has a JaMarcus Russell or Tony Banks lining.
OK, people, slow down. Here is a gifted athlete, a man who has dominated the JUCO ranks of football and won a national championship by navigating the toughest conference in D-I football.
When I asked several of his teammates during media interviews about Cam Newton’s ability to lead men, they all emphatically stated, “He is a leader.” Nick Fairley, one of the top defensive tackles in the draft and one of Newton’s more vocal supporters during their time at Auburn, said, “He came in the locker room and told us all, ‘I’m going through issues, let’s stay focused and win a National Championship.’ ” And they did.
Newton’s athletic ability shined through in all the drills, and the big man ran a good 40 as well. His footwork in three-, five- and seven-step drops was smooth, and he is very light on his feet. Accuracy was spotty as he struggled throwing the 10-yard out, but the same problem afflicted many quarterback hopefuls.
Newton was at his best when sticking the ball on the receivers and not throwing to an area. While this talented young signal-caller will need grooming for the next level, several things were obvious: He is athletic, composed and possesses loads of leadership qualities. It will be interesting to hear how he passed the mental part of the job interview process in the 15-minute team interviews.
Will he be able to handle the protections, audibles, make play changes and recognize covers when dropping from center? I hope so. I really like his physical attributes, and he is a good young man, not to mention one helluva football player with a huge upside.