By Joseph Iemma
He’s six-foot-five, 245 pounds, covers 40 yards in 4.59 seconds and can pinpoint a deep pass 45 yards down field into the hands of a wide receiver running at a top speed of more than 20 miles per hour with defensive backs draped all over him who are doing everything in their power to break up that pass.
No, his name isn’t Superman. He’s just 26-year-old Cam Newton. Born Cameron Jarrell Newton, Cam led the Carolina Panthers to just their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
For Newton, the road to Super Bowl 50, which was played on Sunday, Feb. 7, in Santa Clara, California, was not paved in gold cobblestone with cheerleaders, champagne and roses on each side. In fact, it was a road filled with twists and turns, with nay-sayers blanketing each side casting doubt on Newton. They claimed the only destination he would reach was a dead end, a pitfall of some sorts; where many athletes’ careers have come to an unwanted and forgettable rest.
“Very disingenuous — has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup. Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them. Has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law — does not command respect from teammates and will always struggle to win a locker room . . . Lacks accountability, focus and trustworthiness — is not punctual, seeks shortcuts and sets a bad example. Immature and has had issues with authority. Not dependable,” said NFL draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki, of Pro Football Weekly, who published this scouting report a month before the 2011 NFL draft.
Despite the criticism, Newton was the taken first overall by the Carolina Panthers and not even one year after Nawrocki’s ‘bold’ comments, Newton took the league by storm; breaking Peyton Manning’s rookie passing yardage record and earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Newton was also the only rookie quarterback named to the Pro-Bowl that year. (NFL’s All-Star Game)
Fast forward nearly five years and Newton is still fighting off the critics, but one thing has changed, and that’s the narrative of said critics. “He’s a showboat,” says Craig Carton, co-host of Boomer & Carton sports radio show, who said this about Newton, “I think he’s just one of those flash in the pan guys, his style of play can’t sustain winning over a prolonged period of time.”
Even members of the Post community were still skeptical of Newton the week before the Super Bowl. “Cam Newton? You mean Scam Newton right?” said Paul Innamarato, a senior health major, dressed from head to toe in his Philadelphia Eagles attire; which makes one wonder, why Innamarato would refer to Cam as ‘Scam’, considering that Newton’s Panthers blew Innamarato’s Eagles away 27-16 on a nationally televised Sunday Night Football matchup on NBC.
Is race an issue for Newton? (Asked a reporter at Super Bowl Media Day on Feb. 2). “It’s an issue for you,” Newton said. “I don’t even want to touch on the topic of black quarterback, because I think this game is bigger than black, white or even green. So I think we limit ourselves when we just label ourselves just black, this, that and the third. I’ve said numerous times that I play to have a stage that people will listen to, and I pray to God that I do right by my influence. So when you ask me a question about African-American or being black and mobile, it’s bigger than that.”
Regardless, and quite frankly, we will never truly know if race is a factor in how Newton is treated by the public and the media, but one thing is for sure, Newton is adding a fourth law to the laws of motion.
Newton won a National Championship in college. He’s won the Heisman Trophy as college football’s best player. He won this year’s NFL MVP and if Newton’s Panthers would have beat Peyton Manning and
the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, a classic old school vs. new school matchup, Newton would have become the first player in NFL history to earn all four accolades as a quarterback.
With that said, let Newton be Newton. If you don’t like him, his team and his post-touchdown celebrations, then stop him from scoring. After all, he essentially is the reason the ‘dab’ has become the dab. Despite the difficult loss, Newton and his Panthers will be back and Newton will still tell his critics, “I’m just being me.”