If you listen closely to what they say and don't say about the allegations hurled toward them by the millisecond, the Newtons are guilty of something.
Then again, so is everybody else with a breath.
As my pastor likes to say, if you dig long enough, you shouldn't be surprised if you come up with dirt. And, courtesy of the usual suspects who are shoveling like crazy in the shadows, there has been enough debris thrown at Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and his father, Cecil, to fill Jordan-Hare Stadium.
It's unseemly. It's unfair.
It's the SEC.
Let's just say the father had it about right when he told me during a recent conversation that these controversies out of nowhere involving himself and his son are "nothing but a witch-hunt."
More specifically, this is nothing but an SEC witch-hunt, and you'll find the brooms in the vicinity of Starkville, Miss., Gainesville, Fla., or both. I mean, if neither Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen nor Florida's Urban Meyer is directly or indirectly the trigger for this bashing of the Newton family, then folks in their football nation are.
Who are these folks? They are folks who can't stand Cam isn't doing these brilliant things with his legs and his arm at their school.
To heighten their jealousy, they fume while thinking that Cam could be leading their team. He was positioned as the replacement for the great Tim Tebow after he started his college career at Florida. Plus, he supposedly was headed to Mississippi State after a stint in junior college to play for Mullen (his position coach at Florida) before he changed his mind. He went to Auburn, where he turned what was a lowly ranked Tigers team into an offensive monster that is victories against Georgia, Alabama and likely Florida shy of playing for the national championship.
It's just that all of that rising dirt will affect Cam's status as the leading Heisman Trophy candidate, when it shouldn't.
You have the unproven claims that the Newtons -- Cecil, in particular -- sought as much as $200,000 from college recruits. You have the non-consequential allegations that Cam cheated several times two years go while enrolled at Florida, where he also was involved in a stolen-computer mess before he transferred to that junior college. And then you have the Newtons' responses to the charges.
"I'm not going to sit up here and say anything about it, whether I did or did not do it," which is from Cam. And: "The lawyers are involved right now, so I can't talk at the moment," which is from Cecil.
Well, the following is from Khari Arnold, a 16-year-old sports columnist for the student newspaper at Atlanta's Westlake High School, where Cam matriculated, along with a bunch of other future stars, including Adam "Don't call me Pacman anymore" Jones.
Khari is one of my Sunday School students, and I know him well. Even so, until he showed me one of his columns this week entitled "The Long Road to Redemption," I didn't know Khari had a connection with Cam that goes back five years. And, until I read that column, I didn't know how much Cam was affecting the lives of others in a positive way -- and not just because he can run fast and throw far.
Here's an excerpt from that column . . .
"Don't do drugs, stay away from the girls and make good grades. As an eighth-grade male, those were the main concerns people told you about (when preparing for) high school. However, those words meant so much more when it came out of Cameron Newton's mouth. Newton was an All-American quarterback for our 2006 Westlake Lions who packed stadiums every game he played.
"Five years ago, Newton took the time to come talk to the Class of 2011 males at Sandtown Middle School. He inspired many young people that day and demonstrated how important it was to stay focused. While answering questions from several students, Newton kept stressing how peer pressure, distractions and lack of productivity are cautions for life in high school."
Then Khari wrote of a recent phone chat between the two in which Cam said, "It's not about how you make your mistakes, but how you learn, overcome and move forward from them."
Sounds like a Heisman guy to me. This isn't one of those Reggie Bush deals, where the cheating star from Southern Cal returned his trophy for violating the Heisman Trust mission statement that says it should go to "the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."
Inspiring young people exhibits integrity.
In other words, Cam should receive more praising than bashing, and consider, too, that his father is a pastor in the Atlanta area. Which isn't to say they are immune to sinning.
But here's the thing: the charges against Cam involving that stolen computer at Florida were dropped after he completed a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders. And, even if Cam were involved in cheating in some capacity as a Gator, that was two years ago, which is a generation ago for a 21-year-old who says and shows he has repented from his past. And, even if money was involved with his post-Florida career, those charges were against the father, not the son.
Just leave Cam Newton alone.
So much for daydreaming. The SEC traditionally is a haven for massive scandals, with much help from haters in the house. That's because most of its teams have the reputation of ambushing conference foes they just don't like. They do so through media leaks or by other means with hopes of sending those foes to the NCAA slammer.
Ole Miss snitches on Mississippi State when Mississippi State isn't snitching on Ole Miss. Georgia goes after Florida when Florida isn't going after Georgia. We don't even have to mention Auburn vs. Alabama and Alabama vs. Auburn.
You have Phillip Fulmer, who is known as the Great Pumpkin (and worse) around the Crimson Tide Nation. He hasn't coached Tennessee in two years, and he told the NCAA cops about the illegal ways of Alabama boosters more than a decade ago, but he still shouldn't drive between the Alabama state lines without an armored car.
You've also had scandals in general. For instance: there were the 59 NCAA sanctions at Florida under Charley Pell, but the Gators got a break, because there were 107 allegations.
There was the Jan Kemp fiasco at Georgia that featured a slew of basket-weaving classes for athletes or no classes at all. Then, nearly 20 years later, there was the Jim Harrick fiasco at Georgia (see Jan Kemp). There were Jackie Sherrill's various issues at Mississippi State, and there also was just the silliness at Auburn, where Tiger officials tried to replace Tommy Tuberville with Bobby Petrino during a season before the clandestine act was exposed in an embarrassing way.
Now this: the ongoing Cam Newton soap opera, primarily generated by the jilted lovers of the SEC.
I'll end with the last paragraph of Khari's column, which delivers the ultimate reason why Cam shouldn't suffer wrath along the way to the Heisman that he deserves: "Whether it's at home, school or in your every day life, Newton can agree that anyone can overcome their mistakes. It's what you do with your second chance that matters the most."
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