SAN FRANCISCO — Maybe Cam Newton doesn't need to win Super Bowl 50 to become the next undisputed face of the NFL. Maybe he's already there.
Newton's first NFL MVP award, which became official on Saturday night, cements his rise as a superstar. He is writing a football resume that has never been duplicated, and he's only 26.
Newton threw for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns, rushed for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns and by the end of the season it became obvious he was going to win the MVP. Newton was a force all season. He beat out Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, among others. Newton dominated the vote, getting 48 of 50 votes. Brady and Palmer got one vote each.
Newton is the sixth Heisman Trophy winner to also win an Associated Press NFL MVP award. Paul Hornung (1961 MVP), O.J. Simpson (1973), Earl Campbell (1979), Marcus Allen
(1985) and Barry Sanders (1997) are the others. You'll notice, there's not another quarterback on the list (Hornung was primarily a quarterback at Notre Dame but a running back with the Green Bay Packers). Newton is the first Heisman-winning quarterback to ever win the AP's NFL MVP award.
Allen is the only player in football history to win a Heisman Trophy, national title in college, NFL MVP and a Super Bowl. Newton can join him on Sunday if the Panthers win Super Bowl 50. And Allen's inclusion comes with an asterisk: He had just 31 carries as a freshman on the 1978 USC Trojans title team. There's no such qualifier for Newton. Newton was the dominant figure on the 2010 Auburn Tigers when they went 14-0 and won a national title. That was his only season in Division I as a starter, and he was the runaway Heisman winner that year.
Newton was a great player on a championship team in college. He's a great player in the NFL, and one step away from being a champion in the pros as well. Again, in the history of football we've never seen anything quite like Newton.
"Obviously, it’s a prestigious award, but I’m not dwelling on that right now mentally," Newton said earlier this week about possibly winning MVP. "I think my mind is elsewhere, still in the preparation of a game week. That’s a tremendous honor."
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is the only five-time NFL MVP winner, and earlier this week he said it was a foregone conclusion Newton would be named MVP.
"What he’s done in the short time being an NFL quarterback he’s been awesome," Manning said. "It’s the best word I can think of. He’s been a great passer, he’s been a great runner, he’s been a great leader. You don’t go 17-1 as a starting quarterback without being awesome and that’s what he’s been this year without a doubt."
Manning will retire soon, perhaps after Sunday's Super Bowl. Brady will be 39 next season. Other great quarterbacks like Palmer, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees are in their late 30s. Newton already has a ton of endorsements, a lot of very cool trophies and might earn a Super Bowl ring on Sunday. You can argue that over the past few months, he has become the biggest star in the NFL. He might retain that unofficial title for a while, too.
"It’s just a tremendous honor to be even mentioned and affiliated with the face of the league, but yet I think I have bigger fish to fry on Sunday, and then we’ll worry about the rest of the eight to 10 years after that," Newton said earlier this week.
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