“This guy is the prototype. This guy did break the mold. You cannot compare Cam Newton to any other quarterback; past or present, dead or alive. Now I’m not saying he’s the best quarterback I’ve ever seen. There are certainly better quarterbacks than Cam Newton. What I am saying however is this; there has never been a better athlete to play that position than Newton,” said talk show host Jim Rome at the beginning of Super Bowl week giving one of his signature takes on Cam Newton. “There has never been a guy that big, that strong, that athletic, that fast, or that explosive. This guy is truly and NFL’s LeBron James.”
“When you speak of Cam Newton, he has the arm strength and power of Dan Marino and John Elway combined. He is quicker and faster than Michael Vick, and he will run over you with the power of a Jerome Bettis, Bo Jackson, Earl Campbell. That’s the type of guy he is. He’s scary,” said legendary NFL running back Bo Jackson.
In Super Bowl 50, Cameron “Cam” Newton will be only the third African American quarterback to start in the big game since Doug Williams won Super Bowl 22. The late Steve McNair and Donavan McNabb the next to start the game in Super Bowls 34 and 39. In Super Bowl 50, Cam Newton is entering the big stage with his flamboyant, outspoken and unapologetic style and persona which brings to mind Muhammad Ali who was the first of his kind in boxing, and the University of Michigan’s Fab Five, who were the first of their kind in college basketball. Similarly, Newton has the game to back it up as described by the two opening quotes, though his celebratory antics have created as many critics as fans.
While the focus has been on his freakish talent and celebratory antics, there been little talk about how he got to where he is. In short he didn’t just appear out of nowhere, and did face adversities on his path to his current success, some of which could have derailed his career. Within his story there are several teachable lessons about success and failure for young people, students and student athletes alike.
Unless you followed Georgia high school athletics religiously you didn’t hear about Cam Newton until he burst onto the national scene at Auburn University. That however wasn’t the beginning of his college football career. It actually started in that same Southeastern Conference a few years earlier at the University of Florida.
For a short period of time, Cam Newton was one of the backup quarterbacks to the highly celebrated Tim Tebow, and was to compete for the starting position for Coach Urban Meyer’s Gators once Tebow graduated. Having Newton succeed Tebow would have undoubtedly maintained the Gator’s status as a college football power, prevented their eventual drop off, and Meyer’s subsequent departure. As with most of these stories however, one decision affected the fates of many others.
While at Florida, Newton was arrested for receiving stolen property after unknowingly purchasing a stolen laptop computer from another Florida student causing his suspension. From Florida, he transferred to Blinn College where his team won the NJCAA National Football Championship. He then transferred to Auburn University where he led the Tigers to the 2011 BCS National Championship, a year that was shrouded in controversy concerning whether or not his family received improper benefits for his signing at Auburn.
The next year Newton was drafted into the NFL by the Carolina Panthers where he experienced some early success. After NFL defenses adjusted to his early skill set, those initial successes were followed by a period of struggle before mastering his craft this year. In addition to the growing pains experienced by most professional quarterbacks, he had to learn to navigate the media, and become the leader of his team.
His story is one of redemption and also perseverance. Like so many athletes before him black and white, he experienced adversity in terms off the field issues, but he was able to salvage his career, make good on his profuse physical gifts, and propel himself to success becoming potentially one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks ever.