Newton spells confident with a capital ‘C’
Cam Newton doesn’t want to be seen as merely a great football player – “I see myself as an entertainer-slash-icon,” the Heisman Trophy winner out of Auburn said on Tuesday. As such, he figures his impact should extend past the football field – “God has given me this platform,” he noted.
The talk of him climbing into the top 10 of April’s NFL draft is nice, yet not enough. “I want to be the No. 1 pick.” He bristles at perhaps the most oft-repeated criticism of him: He was a starter for just one season of major college football – albeit a season where he took an 8-5 club to a 14-0 BCS championship.
“I’m aware of that statement,” Newton said. “I don’t want to sound arrogant but I did something in one year people couldn’t do in their whole collegiate careers. We had a chance to do something great and we did it.”
So let’s check “confident” in Newton’s evaluation table as we head into this week’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Cam Newton doesn’t doubt for one second that he’s about to embark on a big-time career. Perhaps this is blissful ignorance. Or it’s outrageous confidence. Or it’s the necessary attitude for greatness. Time will tell.
Right now, though, how can you blame the 21-year-old for believing he’s destined for success?
Eighteen months ago, Newton was relegated to a junior college in rural Texas. He had left the University of Florida following a run-in with police over a stolen laptop computer and, as foxsports.com later reported, academic fraud.
He was a man child with a world of potential that was on the verge of kicking it all away. So when his father, Cecil, left him at a no-name school (Blinn) in a no-name town (Brenham), he offered his son one piece of advice.
“He said, ‘Cam, you can make this situation a dream or you can make this situation a nightmare,’ ” Cam Newton recalled.
“That struck a fire under me. That was my drive.”
Newton led Blinn to the junior college national title. He then went to Auburn and overwhelmed the SEC with his athletic ability, leadership and resolve. That was title No. 2.
In the process he bulldozed the once-feared NCAA infractions system, remaining eligible even as it was concluded that Cecil had solicited an $180,000 kickback from Mississippi State for Cam to play in Starkville (a deal MSU turned down). His continuing eligibility was decried by rival conference commissioners and stunned coaches and a million fans. Cam kept smiling. And winning.
Then, before even making a single throw for an NFL scout – something that will change this weekend – he inked a multi-million-dollar endorsement deal with Under Armour that’s been called the richest shoe-and-apparel contract ever for an NFL rookie. In 2012, he’ll have a signature shoe.
So from the day Cam decided to heed his dad’s advice and grow up, no one and nothing has stopped him. Not linebackers. Not the NCAA. Not the media. No one.
When you go from Blinn to the big-time in a year-and-a-half flat, why wouldn’t you be confident?
“Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve won,” Newton said. “I’ve thrived off the word ‘win.’ ”
A measure of comeuppance is coming, of course. He isn’t going to just “win” in the NFL. Ray Lewis(notes), et al., will bring about a healthy dose of reality – entertainer-slash-icon or not. Newton actually knows that. He isn’t saying he’s going to take over the AFC like he did the SEC.
He isn’t shying away from the challenge, though.
At this week’s combine he isn’t just willing to go through the full array of throws, drills and tests – he cherishes the chance. He isn’t going to hide and hope. He isn’t going to wait for the Auburn pro day, where he might be more “comfortable.” He isn’t going to do a staged deal.
Bring it on, he said. He’s seeking “transparency.” Well, at least when it comes to football. The condition for Yahoo! Sports to speak with him this week was he wouldn’t answer any questions about his father shopping him as a junior college recruit.
He was willing to declare the poisoning of the trees at Toomer’s Corner near Auburn “devastating” and note “to have the guy say he was an Alabama fan, that does harm to Alabama. When they think of Alabama fans, the first vision they’re going to have is what this guy has done.”
The controversy at Auburn won’t necessarily be a factor with the NFL, where many believe the NCAA’s rules are ridiculous. Teams will, however, ask about it. They’ll also administer psychological evaluations, intelligence tests and probably even trail him with private investigators.
“I’m just going in there and being myself and hopefully they will see what I’m saying is true,” Newton said.
As for his unceremonious departure from Florida, he said he owns his mistakes yet doesn’t believe the poor decisions he made at “17, 18, 19 years old” define him. “I don’t think I’m the same person.”
Sure, life would’ve been easier had he stayed at Florida and succeeded Tim Tebow(notes). Would it have made him better? Wasn’t the lesson of Blinn – he needed to mature immediately – the most valuable of all? All we know is that once he did, the world got easy.
“I have no regrets,” he said. “Yeah, I made mistakes. My maturation was a product of going to Brenham, Texas, and Blinn College.”
There are no sure things in the NFL draft because getting drafted isn’t just the first step – it’s the easiest step. Staying, and thriving, in the league is the real challenge. Newton, at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds and with impressive mobility and arm strength, clearly has physical tools. Whether he continues to develop them throughout his career is up to him.
“Peyton Manning, Tom Brady(notes), Aaron Rodgers(notes), you look at how good they are every year,” Newton said. “The question is how do they do it? Nothing you can point to but hard work. In the offseason. In the regular season.”
So he can say the right thing. And he can say the over-the-top thing. He’s the talk of the draft in every imaginable way.