It was just a few minutes past 8 PM on a Thursday night in the Big Apple. Fans had piled into Radio City Music Hall and they were ready to get the show started. Little did they know that they were about to witness more than just a show, these fans were about to witness one of the greatest draft classes in NFL history and the future of football itself. The Carolina Panthers owned the first pick after finishing the previous season just 2-14. This was arguably a “make or break” opportunity to get their franchise back on track.
Roger Goodell headed towards the podium holding the envelope that would get Thursday night’s party started. “With the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft,” Goodell pronounced, “The Carolina Panthers select Cam Newton. Quarterback. Auburn.” The Newton family were already out of their seats anticipating the great news. His mother, Jackie Newton, clapped loudly like any proud mother would. His father, Cecil Newton Sr., pointed to the big man upstairs to give thanks. All eyes, however, were not on the Newton family. All eyes were on Cam, and with that, the legacy of Cam Newton is on to the next chapter.
If you don’t already know how Cameron Newton got to the NFL, let me summarize it for you as short and sweet as I can. Cam was a heavily sought after QB from Westlake High school in Atlanta. He chose to take his talents to the University of Florida where he would spend a year backing up Tim Tebow. Following his freshman year, Cam found himself in a sticky situation after receiving a laptop that had already been stolen from another student. In an attempt to hide any evidence and prove his innocence, Cam just tossed the laptop out of his dorm window. This genius plan ultimately led to his arrest. The situation caught a lot of attention throughout the SEC and created a need for change Newton’s life.
His first move was to leave UF for Blinn College in Texas. Cam’s time at Blinn College could be considered the major turning point in his career and life. He became an offensive monster and led the Junior College to a national championship (he even played some defense too). The next step in Cam’s journey was attending Auburn University. This part of his career consisted of drama, excitement, and a lot of great football. Not to mention a Heisman trophy, a BCS Championship, and the alleged acceptance of thousands of dollars. But if you don’t know about all of that by now, it’s worth a Google.
Let’s fast forward a bit to today. Just a few days away from the biggest sporting event on American soil and Cam seems to be a big kid enjoying the spotlight. He’s helped lead the Panthers to their best season in franchise history and he’s one win away from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. While one could argue that this is the kind of reputation that every athlete dreams of, there are thousands of fans out there that can’t stand the freak of nature that is Cam Newton. These people can’t stand him for one reason and one reason only: he’s THAT good and he knows it. The runs, the passes, the touchdowns, the dances, and the smiles can be considered a recipe for disaster to some. To Cam, they’re just the components that make him the beast that he is.
He stands in the pocket with such strength and poise that, not only is it hard to take him down, it’s hard to even make solid contact with him. He knows how to move in the pocket and keep the ball away from the defense. The 6’5″ 250 lb. quarterback is often compared to Ben Roethlisberger due to his size and passing ability. But as Cameron Newton put it himself, “Nobody has ever seen who I’m trying to be. Nobody has the size, nobody has the speed, nobody has the arm strength, and nobody has the intangibles that I have”. Whether you like it or not, he’s right.
In this year’s NFC Championship, we saw Cam Newton rack up 382 total yards and 3 touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals. Seeing how the Cardinals finished this season in the top 5 of total YPG (yards per game) by giving up an average of just 321.7 yards per game, I’d say Cam had a pretty good night. Skill and performance put aside, only 1 member of Arizona’s starting defense stands taller than Cam and only 5 members weigh heavier. To be one of the biggest guys out there and make the kind of plays that he does could be considered bullying by some. I can’t help but think of the poor Cardinals D telling him to “pick on somebody his own size”. The man is the exact same size as his Pro Bowl tight end, Greg Olsen, for crying out loud!
Speaking of loud, Cam is known for not being shy while on the field. By now, I’m sure we’ve all seen him dab. Whether it’s a touchdown or a first down, Cam will let you know what he just did. One particular play, Cam dove into the end zone on a 1 yard touchdown run against the Tennessee Titans. Cam started his celebration routine which sparked a reaction out of Tennessee linebacker, Avery Williamson. Fueled by Williamson’s anger, Cam went on to celebrate 5 more times in between the touchdown and the extra point. The man gets the job done and then celebrates his success right in front of your face. Aaron Rodgers has been hitting the “Discount Double Check” for years and do we see any backlash for that? No, we see an endorsement deal and a line of commercials.
While many aren’t happy with how enthusiastic Cam is, nobody can frown upon the souvenirs he gives to young Panthers fans. I’m aware of the “give the ball to the ref and act like you’ve been there before” routine but I think I like Cam playing Santa a little bit more. If you can remember who your idols and heroes were when you were just a child, imagine if they picked you out in a crowd and brought you something along the lines of a game used football. If you’re against that, then you hate children. It’s a proven fact.
When it comes to Cam Newton and kids, handing out footballs isn’t the only way he gives back. Cam has been known to be actively involved off the field with charity events. From Thanksgiving dinners to kickball tournaments, the man knows how to give back to his community. This past Thanksgiving, just a couple of nights before he took on America’s team in Jerry World, Cam helped feed almost 900 kids for the 3rd year in a row. When meeting with his foundation (Cam Newton Foundation) organizers to come up with an event for 2015, they decided on a kickball tournament. Cam thought the charity golf tournament idea is over-used and he’s not much of a golfer. A kickball tournament would be a fun idea that all ages could enjoy. Once the idea was decided on, the organizers agreed on a $5 entry charge. Cam’s response to that was, “Absolutely not”. He didn’t want people to have to pay in order to participate and have fun; he wanted it to just happen. Without any sort of entry fee, his tournament still managed to raise over $250,000. When asked about his kickball tournament, Cam described it as “the ultimate field day”, which is an accurate description of what every day is for this giant sized kid.
You may not like his dance moves, his first down celebrations, or his extremely bright smile and that’s fine. But you can’t deny the fact that this man is excellent at what he does both on and off the field. He’s doing everything in his power to rewrite whatever negative reputation he has from his college days and how can anybody judge him for that? He’s learned real life lessons in a very public way and he’s transcended himself into a selfless professional. When you see #1 take the field this Sunday in the biggest game of his life, know that we’re witnessing him live out his dream. It’s been quite the journey for Cam Newton but it is far from over. He’s faced obstacles at every level and if a Super Bowl loss is another one of those obstacles then so be it. Knowing Cam, he’ll dive over that obstacle, show his pearly whites, and “dab on them folks” into next season.