Former Auburn University quarterback and 2010 Heisman trophy winner Cam Newton did little this week to dispel rumors that he lacks the character and maturity required to be an elite quarterback and leader in the National Football League.
In a phone interview with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, Newton delivered this memorable quote:
“I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon.”
For a player and his father so intent on generating and sustaining media buzz in the lead up to the NFL Draft in April, his loose grasp of the English language and not his athletic prowess may be his undoing yet.
It’s a snapshot of the mind of an impressionable 20-something-year-old who, despite personal hiccups, has managed to forge a stellar athletic career in a very short period of time, but like most young men his age, he also seems to confuse hubris for confidence.
There’s no doubt that Cam Newton possesses a unique set of athletic skills that any football coach with half a brain would covet, but his latest misstep proves one thing to me—this kid is not ready for prime time.
Over the next month-and-a-half, he’ll be poked and prodded and questioned over and over about his past and plans for his future under what I would assume is the watchful eye of his father, Cecil—the mastermind behind the machine that is Cam.
His response is also another example of a young black athlete and their often inexperienced handlers who don’t know how to navigate and leverage their ability in the hyper-competitive world of professional sports and the media that covers it.
Stick a microphone in front of a guy and he fancies himself the next Bryant Gumbel.
The professional sports landscape is littered with guys like Cam Newton who assume that our love for their on-field performance is the same for their opinions and thoughts. Cam didn’t refer to himself as an “icon” to prop up his own ego; he did it because he doesn’t understand the gravity or meaning of what he just said.
In his mind, he thinks he’s pitching NFL teams the next Michael Jordan, but all they see is the next Keyshawn Johnson demanding to be given the “damn ball.”
No NFL team wants to draft an icon, because for a player in his position, there is no positive spin to it. When distilled, the word infers that he’s a diva, prima donna, high maintenance, and ultimately a player whose No. 1 priority is not football.
However, a hardworking player who plans to be the first person in the building and the last one out, someone who’ll look to the veteran players and coaches for advice on how to thrive in the National Football League, is a much more appealing choice.
Cam Newton has done a masterful job thus far charming us all with his camera-ready smile, biblical teachings and one-liners that have been rehearsed to no end with media handlers.
However, Peter King was fortunate to catch him in an unmasked moment that may reveal more to us than the non-interviews and vapid responses he was able to get away with during the past college football season.
The fact remains that there are a lot of questions about the character of this young man and people he surrounds himself with that have not been answered, and for a player and his family intent on re-writing their own history, this latest statement is a gross error in judgment at a time when they could least afford it.
He’s days away from the biggest job interview of his life, and now every potential employer is under the impression he’s just another arrogant jerk.
Here’s some advice for you Cam: In your case, less is more. Let the actual pros do their jobs and help you, and when they do, stick to the script. Your only goal over the next month-and-a-half should be for teams and fans to hear more from your arms and legs and less from your mouth.
Get a job and contract first, THEN begin to work on becoming an icon.
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