So many questions will get answered in the next week, but as we sit here on the eve of the 2011 NFL combine we would be remiss if we didn't discuss Cam Newton's comments yesterday to Peter King, and some other things he said per Dan Wetzel of Yahoo sports.
The report came out yesterday afternoon that Newton in a conference call with the media regarding his deal with Under Armor boldly proclaimed "I see myself as an entertainer-slash-icon [...] God has given me this platform"; a simple two part quote that sounds like the brainchild of part Deion Sanders, and part Tim Tebow. Moreover, the quote seemed like PR suicide for a guy needing desperately to sell himself to teams, especially given he then went on to tell Dan Wetzel, in response to critics who say he's a one year wonder:
"I'm aware of that statement [...] 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."
If proclaiming you want to be an 'icon' a day before the combine is loading the gun, that second statement is cocking it. So what is Cam Newton? Is there a category to put him into? Can we simply write him off as another in the long line of self-aggrandizing athletes? Least of all, why is it that I'm strangely endeared to him after reading these comments when all logic says I should be running away in horror? I'll look at these questions... after the jump.
Tip of the hat to Fernando De La Cruz for the Fanshot that inspired this story
If you saw the post earlier this week by Jaxon about gambling opportunities surrounding the combine, or listened to CSR Radio this week where we discussed it in depth the overwhelming ridiculousness about the nature of this stuff. In the 21st century football is constantly teetering somewhere between ludicrous, sublime and sublimely ludicrous. No longer is it just about "Did that kid play well in college? Well... take him" it's now about height, hand size, fluid hips, college offense, wonderlic test, 40 time... and so on. Despite every piece of minutia, every metric analyzed and all the scrutinization- teams still pick busts, and franchises are still searching for their Rosetta Stone to figure out what the key is to a good draft.
As teams keep trying to hone their evaluation techniques, players keep trying to obfuscate their weaknesses. Worried about throwing at the combine? Don't do it! Afraid you've eaten a few too many cheeseburgers since that bowl game and want to be ready for your Pro Day 40? Don't run it in Indianapolis... afraid someone might realize you're not a very nice person? Time to get a PR team and a media coach. Cam Newton has a PR team, he has a media coach, Warren Moon is charged with 'preparing him for the next level' (whatever that means) and none of that mattered when it came to Tuesday's comments- now, Moon is telling Mike Florio that:
"You try and filter that as much as you possibly can but I don't go into every interview with him [...] Again, that's just how confident the kid is. He trains with a lot of confidence, he has a lot of confidence in his ability, and he could be a little bit more careful with some of the things he says that kind of show that confidence a little bit too much. Sometimes confidence should be something that you keep inside and something that you should just show when you go out on the football field or whatever arena that you are competing in and that's something he's got to do a better job of."
Is it wrong that I kind of like Cam Newton a little more after reading that? Is it wrong that I kind of like seeing him for what he is, an arrogant, cocky, speak-before-thinking 21 year old who's showing every bit of his age?
I think I prefer it to the perfect "Yes, sir", "No, ma'am" , perfectly groomed media darling that's as much college athlete as airbrushed model on the cover of a magazine. These kids are cocky, they are brash... spend some time reading some of the Twitter feeds of some athletes who don't have a vested interest in seeming 'perfect' and you get a pretty good idea of confidence run amok, and needing to be harnessed. Most players come into the league without a good head on their shoulders, they are wild stallions needing to be broken before they truly become useful. If you believe that the other 31 guys picked in the first round will be the picture of meekness, while Newton is the proverbial 'black sheep' then you're kidding yourself.
Newton's quotes I've already talked about should throw up red flags to most everyone reading them, rest assurred I understand I'm definitely in the minority when I say I appreciate them, but here are some other quotes from Dan Wetzel's article that may make you think again and realize that if this is Cam Newton at the height of his honesty (as ill advised as it is) then maybe it can be harnessed, maybe he can be broken. Imagine for a second these quotes aren't from Cam Newton and ask yourself "does this sound like a guy I would want?"
On his days in juco, following being dismissed from Florida:
"I have no regrets [...] Yeah, I made mistakes. My maturation was a product of going to Brenham, Texas, and Blinn College. [...] (my dad) He said, ‘Cam, you can make this situation a dream or you can make this situation a nightmare,' [...] That struck a fire under me. That was my drive."
On the scrutinization he'll face at the combine:
"I'm just going in there and being myself and hopefully they will see what I'm saying is true [...] I don't think I'm the same person."
On what it takes in the NFL:
"Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, you look at how good they are every year [...] The question is how do they do it? Nothing you can point to but hard work. In the offseason. In the regular season."
What are we to believe? That Newton remembered his media training halfway through an interview? Did he realize that he screwed up and needed to backtrack to make himself look better? Perhaps, but maybe... just maybe he's not as stupid as many of us like to think.
When asked about Cam Newton and what he thinks his wonderlic score will be Darin Gantt (whose been as harsh about Newton as any) said "He's a bright kid. Wouldn't be surprised to see high one."
Personally, I think Newton's personality is like Newton's play on the field- hard to categorize, tough to pigeon hole, near impossible to work out for sure, risky... but there's a spark there, a certain something there that makes me think there's something to build on. I believe it was Plato who said "With great power comes great responsibility" wait, that was Spider-man... regardless, I think Newton has the power and starting tomorrow he'll need to show us he can at least develop the responsibility.