Newton is confident. He is engaging. He has a superstar's smile and a well-earned belief in himself that should make teams feel better, not worse, about making him their quarterback. He wears the mistakes of his past with a grown-up's wisdom and perspective. He has all the makings of a potential icon, and an entertaining one. The only thing telling this kid not to strive to be awesome is the stodgy old NFL establishment that recoils against anything and anybody who's off-script. Newton should shrug it off and keep scrambling out of the pocket en route to greatness.
"I'm a confident person, and it was instilled in me at a young age to believe in myself first and foremost," Newton said. "Because if you don't believe in yourself, how is anybody else going to believe in you?"
This is clearly not an issue for this particular young man, a huge, fast, cannon-armed quarterback who doesn't know what it's like to lose a football game. He's spent the past year as the controversial center of the college football universe and hasn't blinked. He has enough self-confidence to not be surprised at the way the year has gone and enough perspective to be impressed.
"It's amazing to think that, 365 days ago, I was sitting in class at Auburn," Newton said. "Even the Auburn fans didn't know what they were getting."
NFL teams, of course, like to know what they're getting. Especially at the stratospheric level of the draft at which Newton expects to be picked. That's why, in spite of his skills, his physique and his resume, Newton is facing a whole lot of questions. There's the stuff about why he had to leave the University of Florida amid allegations of stealing laptop computers and go off to play junior college in Texas.
"Everybody has a learning process that they go through," Newton said. "And for me that learning process happened three years ago. The mistakes I made at Florida, the trials and tribulations at Blinn College, have made me who I am today."
After Blinn, he of course went on to Heisman Trophy and national championship glory at Auburn. But even then, he found himself at the center of a scandal involving his father, who was found to have solicited money from schools while Cam was bring recruited.
"The whole process with the NCAA has been me facing adversity," Newton said. "And I owe a lot to my supporting cast, my teammates, coaches, family and friends. My relationship with my father was already good, and with this all swirling around, it brought me and my father closer together. My father's just like any other father who wants the best for his son."
And then there was this icon business. Earlier in the week, in an interview with Sports Illustrated, Newton said he considered himself an icon and an entertainer in addition to a football player. These comments were seized upon. They became the combine's running joke about a kid who obviously, the establishment said, didn't know where his focus needed to be at this point in time. How dare he think of himself as anything but a football player? Doesn't he know how monumentally important and serious football is???
Newton's opening statement addressed this. He explained that he was speaking about the announcement of his new endorsement deal, and the icon/entertainer stuff was an effort to express his desire to be the best corporate pitchman he could be, the way he also strives to be the best quarterback he can be. And then he said football was of course his top priority.
It was an excellent answer that looked even more mature and circumspect compared to the performance of Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, who some time earlier had stormed away from the very same podium after declining repeated opportunities to deny that he was a drug user. But the rest of the Newton news conference demonstrated that the prepared statement business was unnecessary.
Newton shouldn't feel the need to apologize for being him and saying what he believes. He shouldn't feel the need to rehearse, when he's so good off the cuff. He shouldn't help the NFL put him in its one-size-fits-all draft pick box.
He should just be Cam, whatever that turns out to be. Football player, entertainer, icon, or all of the above. He's got the goods and he doesn't need to fear letting the world know about it. The world's going to find out anyway.
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