Yes, I admit it. I rooted against Cam Newton. I rooted against the Auburn Heisman Trophy winner for a long time. I rooted against him not because I’m a Buccaneers or Falcons or Saints fan and not because I was an Alabama fan.
It’s time I come clean, admit I’ve rooted against him and why I’m now ashamed I did so. Because they were quite sanctimonious to say the least.
However, a small background so that readers understand the motive behind my decision.
Cam Newton and I are only five months apart in age. Now hold on, it wasn’t jealousy that led to my decision. I watched Newton when he was at Auburn. He was 21 and I turned 21 during that miraculous season where he quite literally carried Auburn to the National Championship.
If you look at the team’s roster, the only player worth mentioning is Nick Fairley, a defensive tackle who now is with the St. Louis Rams. Fairley was a first round draft pick of the Detroit Lions and has yet to make a Pro Bowl. Newton is also the only player of the small handful of players drafted from Auburn team that is still with the team that originally drafted him except Brandon Mosley, a fourth-round guard with the Giants.
His talent was freakish and worthy of praise. However, as I practiced with my semi-pro team, I was also trying my hardest to juggle college classes and maintain a somewhat meager social life. As my teammates and I discussed him, there was talk about his father Cecil, who almost sabotaged his son’s career due to greed.* There was also talk about Cam and his grades. There was talk about whether he was actually going to class. Whether he was actually doing his assignments. Everyone snickered that people were doing his homework for him and it was assumed he was cheating.
*Let’s call it greed for the sake of it. We can debate Cecil’s motives another day.
Now, enter a 20-21 year old idealistic naive semi look-alike to Harry Potter aka me who is astounded. How dare this…this…heathen dare to cheat at school? The indecency of it! Here I am busting my hump and paying out of pocket for college while he has the nerve to not only hide behind his pappy’s money grubbing hands, but also get off scott-free from class while he plays a game. Are you kidding me?
I also didn’t like his cocky attitude. I had met guys like him before and I never liked any of them. They were so full of themselves; their egos pushed guys like me out of rooms due to lack of space. It was easy to dislike Cam Newton who had been the double transfer and had had it come easy as an athlete and skated in class. Now he dares to ruin the beautiful “purity” of the NCAA by demanding money? “Evil foul creature! May you bust in the NFL and join Ryan Leaf!”
Blindness was my ridiculous sin. Naive resentment because I couldn’t think that Newton was really being used by the NCAA. I had no idea how hard he worked to even get as far as he had to that point and I had less idea of how motivated he was to be the best that he can be.
The media partially portrayed him as an antagonist to my Boy Scout mindset. I saw things as right-wrong and passed over the areas known to man as the middle ground. Sure Newton’s father was in the wrong and maybe his son knew something about it but to think oh he’s got it easy because he got a scholarship isn’t rational. Football players devote their life to the game and are so busy, they hardly have a moment to themselves even before homework has to get done. All the while, Auburn made millions from his talents.
So what if he’s a bit full of himself? Wouldn’t I be if I was a superhuman athlete? I have always been regarded as what one of the “smartest” people that my teachers have ever met. I take pride in it (another sin), so isn’t it possible that Cam Newton can be guilty of that sin? Superhuman he is, but still a human.
21-year-olds can’t really judge 21-year-olds because they both are on the same journey to adulthood and growth. The world is ours for the taking, but before it’s taken, it has to be seen and explored. I couldn’t judge Newton correctly until I had seen more of the world itself. I didn’t realize it because that realization comes later after a lot of exploring is done.
Fast forward five years later.
The NFL media has finally focused on Newton since he’s in the Super Bowl. He’s almost been an unknown in many ways due to being in Carolina. He’s definitely been an unknown in the Salt Lake City area. I’ve lived in the valley for the last two years and counting and still haven’t seen his jersey yet and minus playoff games, I think only 1-2 games has been available to me in that time period.
In that time, the Panthers have become stable and have won the typically unstable NFC South division three years in a row. In that time Newton has grown and I didn’t see the man that he had become. It’s incredible how far he’s come. From cocky to confident. From slightly childish to being the bearer of footballs to little children. From the BMOC to brand new dad. Cam Newton has come a long way and he’s not the only one.
I look in the mirror and I marvel at the man I’ve become sometimes. I’ve gone from being the sanctimonious prick seething about grades to an advocate of paying collegiate athletes. I’ve played the game and seen how hard the athletes work. I’ve seen Newton grow from the top overall pick to the MVP frontrunner, but nothing compared to what he’s become as a man.
That makes me ashamed of my former self. Though maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on myself just like I wouldn’t be too hard on Cam Newton if I knew then what I knew now. As Newton matured, I have matured.
Now, I can say that I’m glad I was wrong about Cam Newton. And you know what? I think he’d smile and say he’s glad I was wrong too.