Cam Newton will be a Hall of Fame quarterback.
That’s right, four weeks into the 2011 NFL season, and it’s time to forecast exotic outcomes with minimal empirical data to back them up.
Of course, only time will tell if Cam is on track for a storied career, a solid, yet uninspiring, perennial starting role, or if he is a four-week flash in the pan whose production, charisma, and athleticism will dwindle over time before he is little more than a serviceable backup bouncing around the league looking to regain his once-boundless potential.
While it’s much too early to induct Cam into Canton, he has demonstrated attributes, traits and behaviors that are emblematic of this lofty achievement.
Here are five key reasons why Cam is destined for a Hall of Fame career.
Many quarterbacks s have been tall (6’6).
Many have been fast (4.5 40-yard dash)
Many have had great arm strength (70-yard throws).
Finally, many have demonstrated elusiveness and escapability to move around the pocket and run up field when necessary.
However, when is the last time all these traits have been packaged into one person?
Of course, if possessing vast physical talent was enough to make a player great, then Ryan Leaf, Dan McGwire and Marcus Vick would all have had stellar NFL careers.
For Cam, this is merely a prerequisite. He is highly durable, which enables him to avoid nagging injuries (ala Tim Couch), and this level of talent allows him time and opportunity to learn the game at a pace that is comfortable for him.
Cam has proven to be a dynamic field general and relentless competitor since the day he arrived at Blinn Junior College in 2009. Quickly earning the respect from his peers, he led Blinn to a JUCO National Championship.
After transferring to Auburn in 2010, he led that team to its first national title in over 50 years.
Most of the time when a team achieves success at the highest level, they lose multiple stars in the first few rounds of the NFL draft. For example, the Miami Hurricanes of the early 2000s and the USC, LSU, and Alabama teams that followed often sent three or four players into the first few rounds of the draft every year.
By comparison, the 2010 Auburn Tigers had just four players drafted overall, including two in the seventh and final round. This speaks to how incredibly dominant and instrumental Cam Newton and DT Nick Fairley were to this team.
In 2009, Auburn was an 8-5 squad with little reason to believe that 2010’s success would be more than marginally better. However, the addition of Cam not only gave them the talent infusion, it also provided the requisite leadership and confidence needed to overcome double-digit deficits on several occasions and reestablish a winning culture on the Plains.
I’m not saying that Cam is in the same passing league with quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, but people have continuously made false judgments on his abilities in this area.
From the beginning, fans and prognosticators have tried to group Cam with the likes of Tim Tebow, a former teammate at Florida, Heisman trophy winner, and one of the best college players of all time. Other than for their ability to run over linebackers at will, Cam and Tim are very different players.
Cam demonstrates solid footwork and good accuracy, and he has a fundamentally sound release on his throws, while Tim continues to struggle with the mechanics that make it necessary to succeed at the NFL level.
Despite starting the season with the best passing numbers of any NFL quarterback in the history of the game, we all know that Cam will have his struggles this year. He is not on a great team and is still learning the complexities of how NFL defenses will attack him.
However, to think that he is only going to get better is a scary proposition to the rest of the league
It’s easy to forget that Cam is averaging around 300 yards passing through the first four games of the season despite having virtually no preparation.
Due to the timing of the NFL lockout, Cam had exactly one day to meet his head coach (Ron Rivera) and pick up his playbook, which contained offensive schemes and formations much more intricate and complex than anything he ever saw at Auburn or at Blinn.
Cam didn’t have the benefit of a rookie minicamp or a full blown training camp to learn plays in a live environment, practice or get reps, and, most importantly, gain the respect and trust of his new team.
Despite these limitations, Cam has come in and competed at the game's highest level. The Panthers have a strong offensive nucleus and a tough, defensive-minded head coach. They will be back in contention very soon.
Through his will, determination, talent and charisma, Cam is setting himself up to be the one who eventually leads Carolina to the promised land.
How many talented and promising young quarterback prospects have fizzled due to their inability to stay hungry and motivated?
Could Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell have become steady and productive tenured NFL quarterbacks had they not had a sense of entitlement and stayed hungry and passionate about the game they once loved?
Cam has faced a series of obstacles that would have killed the dreams and prospects of most promising young athletes.
Upon leaving the University of Florida after the “laptop incident,” Cam found himself playing for a junior college in Brenham, Texas. Just two years earlier, Cam had been one of the most highly recruited high school quarterbacks in the country, but he was playing for a small school in a town with a population of just over 16,000.
Instead of fading into obscurity, Cam picked himself up by his bootstraps and led Blinn Junior College to a national JUCO championship.
After Cam transferred to Auburn the following year and was making a name for himself in the Heisman race, rumors and allegations emerged about a “pay for play” scandal between Cam, Cecil Newton (Cam’s father) and Mississippi State University.
As the NCAA investigated these allegations, Auburn made its run at an undefeated dream season, and the last thing they needed was distraction and uncertainty about whether their star player could be named “ineligible” to play at any time.
Instead of faltering and succumbing to the naysayers, Cam played through the distraction and led his team to new heights. This included come-from-behind wins against Georgia and Alabama, as well as a throttling of South Carolina in the SEC title game.
After the season, and before the draft, experts began to poke and prod at Cam’s ability to succeed at the next level. Teams and scouts put him under the same microscope they put all potential No. 1 picks, but the intensity was even greater given his history, controversy, and how quickly he rose to the top of the sport.
However, Cam never turned down a workout, interview or dodged a tough question. He managed to secure the No. 1 pick, and so far he is proving that he was worth the investment, and that no matter what people throw at him, he will overcome, succeed and win.