There will always be some mention of his past, either on the field or off the field, that will essentially negate any positives that might have been presented about Newton. That was never more evident to me than the dust up on CSR earlier this week when an opposing fan posted a non-favorable piece on Newton on this site (no link, let it go). It's gotten to the point I think Newton is the most misunderstood player in the NFL right now and I'm going to tell you why.
I say misunderstood because the reality is Newton is not the person most seem to enjoy making him out to be. I say this based on covering Newton the past two years in depth; we here at CSR have pretty much logged every move he has made since being the #1 pick overall by the Panthers in 2011. We've seen every interview, practically every picture, certainly every play on the field. We've discussed them in detail.
My opinion is also based on what we haven't seen, referring to the night time trouble a lot of young, suddenly wealthy athletes tend to do. Certainly a guy coming to the NFL with his reputation won't be long for an overnight trip to the pokey for some stupid, alcohol influenced TMZ fiasco is what I'm sure many out there are hoping for. We have not seen it with Cam. The few times we've seen him on TV outside of football he was actually drinking water and conducting himself like a fine upstanding fellow. Yet most can't get past it for one or more of the following reasons.
People like to say Newton is arrogant and full of himself. I admit the evidence is compelling, the 'icon and entertainer' quote pre-draft, the Superman pose and then the Pro Bowl ostracizing he got. Plus if he would let us poke his smile we would see its made of plastic. The most damning incident apparently is his supposed Pro Bowl 'dissing' of the other players. Please note this was never reported during or immediately after the game. It didn't get reported for many months afterward which I my view supports my argument of pundits being out to make Newton look bad. But none the less you get the picture that has been painted.
Contrary to that, it's been my observation Newton is a very confident person off the field and a very confident player on the field. It's not unusual to see confidence misconstrued as arrogance but you have to admit Newton has plenty to be confident about. Since hitting his teens he has been singled out for his athletic ability and size having played in the 7 on 7 national tourney's as a kid up to winning 2 national titles. How could he not have a high level of confidence from all of that? It's a big reason why I think he still can accomplish so much more in the NFL.
Here's a better way to find about the real Cam Newton and whether he is arrogant. Watch any of the clips from his multitude of charity and/or kids events. By the way, I have to give Newton big props for the amount of charity work he does. The guy seems to be doing something on his own time every week this offseason. Arrogant people don't turn their arrogance on and off like a switch. They may be able to hide it for a while but they can a very hard time trying to be genuine.
For example, watch this video of Cam at a School Pride high school event in Charlotte. It's a short clip but the point is I have not seen a bit of arrogance from the guy in any of the appearances he has made. Instead I see a guy confident in his abilities but actually awkward in the spotlight without a football in his hands. 'Awkward' in a down to earth type of way. For example, his recent' 'rubbing more batter on the cake' comment when taking about Kuechly.
The Superman Pose
Many take issue with his Superman pose after scoring. Me personally the teapot move after getting a 1st down is the only thing that bothers me. Yet now that I feel I've gotten to know Newton a little I think both of the moves and the fact he doesn't care what the score is when he does them is due to his love of the game. You can see that he is just having fun as he many times has a big grin on his face when he is running with the ball, trying to avoid defenders. More often than not when a defender gets the best of him he laughs and/or gives them some props. The guy likes to have fun and it's part of why I think he is so exciting to watch as a player.
I admit I did not like the towel over the head routine his first season when things were not going so well. I have to mention this he did the same thing with a towel at Blinn College on his way to a national championship. He would put a towel over his head when on the bench and Newton didn't care what others thought about it then. What I think he overlooked though was the effect it might have on his teammates in the Pros hence why in my view it is the one mistake he has made as a Pro. A mistake only because of how it was being misinterpreted. Why should we care otherwise if he wants to put a towel over his head when on the bench? Which brings me to my last topic.
Cam Newton to this point in his career is not a 'Rah Rah' type of leader in the mold of a Jon Beason or even Ray Lewis. I think it has to do with the awkwardness thing I discussed earlier, he's not a smooth speaker and can be socially standoffish in his demeanor sometimes. But it doesn't mean he cannot lead or is not already a leader on the Panthers.
Newton leads by example, plain and simple. He is one of the hardest workers on the field and the Panthers heard that at every level in their pre-draft due diligence on Newton. He's always putting in the extra time, running the extra laps and talking about what he can do better. Players respect that.
It's also been my observation that his teammates, both on offense and defense, really like the guy and do not hesitate to say good things about him when asked. His linemen jump to his defense on the field when defenders take shots at him and you can tell they have a tremendous amount of confidence when he is in the huddle. If you want to win football games when the spotlight is on then that is exactly what you need from your QB.
Cam Newton is a very confident player that has good reason to be confident but he has not let it go to head as many perceive. Though he had a lot of success at the college level he faced just as much adversity, some of his own doing I agree. The end result is a guy with some walls up but who has shown he can put all that aside and perform when the game is on the line.
On the personal side Cam is actually a very well rounded person on and off the field which I have to give credit to his parents. I have a lot of respect for Cecil Newton in the way he has raised his son and the kind of person he is, quite the opposite perception most have due to Cecil Newton's pay for play fiasco; which by the way I must mention never materialized into anything concrete. I'm willing to bet Roger Goodell approves of the example he has set since coming in to the league in spite of the towel hub bub. Maybe I'm wearing my Homerific Rose Colored glasses here but Newton conducts himself well across any type of event or situation.
Yet his past haunts him a good two years later, not much time I guess in the grand scheme of things. His college background of success and adversity and #1 pick draft status a ton of expectation has been placed on Newton since his arrival. Many like to portray his first two years as a disappointment while overlooking the fact he has had a record setting entry to the league. Off the field he has been a true role model in the way he conducts himself and the tireless charity community work. If other fans can't ever get past Newton's college days then that is not my worry. I think I have a better handle on who Cam Newton is and I'm okay with that.