Cam Newton...Tim Tebow...Roger Federer...Three of the most talked-about athletes of 2011 (who no doubt will continue to be so for quite a while).
Recently, I really began to focus in on and analyze conversations, interviews, articles, etc. as they related to these men.
It's quite easy to do, whether intentionally or not, as all three are consistently in the media. Almost immediately, it became obvious that there was a commonality, both personally and professionally.
Let's take a look at each of them individually, then collectively review the characteristics these three athletes share.
Cam Newton, by all accounts, will go down in history as one of the greatest all-time collegiate quarterbacks, due mainly to his junior year at Auburn University.
For those who may not be familiar with his collegiate career prior to attending Auburn, Newton spent time at Blinn College and the University of Florida. His stats provide a summary of his accomplishments.
However, despite the stats, a season-ending bowl title for Auburn (along with game MVP in the SEC championship) and the 2010 Heisman Trophy, it was still not enough to muffle the conversations echoing across the nation about his potential success—or failure—in the NFL, once he decided he was declaring for the 2011 draft.
Clark Judge, CBSSports.com senior writer, does a good job of summarizing concern about Newton's NFL future. Judge gives his opinion of the potential bad decision the Carolina Panthers were making if they indeed decided to select Newton. And Judge's sentiments, unfortunately, were the predominant ones for most.
Fast-forward to December 2011
Though the Panthers have a losing record, it's not due to Cam Newton, though he's had his moments—as is expected, being new to the NFL.
Here are a few highlights for Newton this season:
- He broke Peyton Manning's rookie first-game passing yardage record by quite a bit. Manning was at 302; Newton passed for 422 yards.
- Tied the record for most yards thrown by a rookie during any game his rookie season (422).
- He broke the record for single-season rushing TDs by a quarterback with 13. He accomplished this during Week 13 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when he rushed for three touchdowns. And on top of that, the Panthers beat up on the Bucs, 38-19. This record had stood since 1976 when Steve Grogan scored 12 while at the helm of the New England Patriots' offense.
With three more weeks left in this season, based upon his performance thus far, Newton is sure not to disappoint—despite the Panthers' overall record.
For four years, Tim Tebow dominated college football while playing at the University of Florida. He set record after record and helped his team win game after game. There was no doubt that he would be looked upon as a great addition to the NFL, sure to be quite successful.
Wrong...it was just the opposite.
Like Cam Newton, Tebow had great collegiate stats. Kerry J. Byrne, SI.com's "Cold Hard Facts" columnist, compiled an article of six collegiate quarterbacks—with a twist. The twist was to not identify the quarterback in the beginning, simply to provide stats.
Byrne's point was to provide the facts without allowing the quarterback's name to obscure the reader's judgment. Hands down, Tebow was the better quarterback.
The chart proved, without a doubt, as Byrne's title stated, that Tebow was better than Peyton or Eli Manning. And unlike Newton, who had one year of quarterback success, Tebow had four. But it was not enough to convince his critics that he would ever be successful in the NFL.
Fast-forward to December 2011
Though he's had some tough moments on the field, there's no denying that Tim Tebow has assisted his team in come-from-behind victories—and victories in general—as the Broncos are currently 8-5 and sit atop the AFC West.
Here are a few highlights for Tim Tebow in 2011:
- Week 10 saw Tebow complete only two passes, but one happened to be a 56-yard TD in Denver's win over the Kansas City Chiefs, 17-10.
- Up to this point, Tebow's TD-to-INT ratio is 11-to-2.
- Week 12 saw Tebow with 22 rushing attempts—the most in a game by a quarterback since the beginning of keeping stats back in the 1950s.
- Week 13 saw Tebow set another record for the most come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter or overtime, as he and the Broncos secured their fifth in defeating the Minnesota Vikings.
Tebow may not be winning the way he should be according to public opinion, but the bottom line is that he and the Broncos are winning.
Roger Federer is one of the greatest tennis players of all time.
That is a proven fact. However, much like Tebow and Newton, the rough patches he's experienced in the last couple of years have left some to question if he still has what it takes to be a dominant figure in men's tennis.
The majority of 2011 was rough by Federer standards. Through the end of the US Open, he had only won one title—The ATP Qatar ExxonMobil Open.
The losses assisted in generating more and more questions about Federer's current status and immediate future in the tennis landscape. Many conversations even counted Federer out then—and still do—due to the accomplishments of Novak Djokovic.
However, a great athlete cannot be counted out, as they are always reluctant to throw in the towel.
Fast-forward to December 2011
Here are a few highlights as to how Roger Federer finished the year:
- Won the ATP Swiss Indoors Basel in October (only dropped one set).
- Won the ATP BNP Paribas Masters in November (did not drop a set).
- Won the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in November (included a 6-0 set win over Rafael Nadal in his straight set victory).
- It's worthy to note that these three tournaments took place between October 31 and November 27; in other words, even at his age, Roger Federer is physically fit; he basically played three tournaments back-to-back.
Three distinct characteristics are present when comparing Roger Federer, Tim Tebow and Cam Newton. Take a look...
They Don't Make Concerted Efforts To Respond to Their Critics
Many times, not just in sports, when someone is being faced with a barrage of criticism, one tends to find a way to speak out against it. This is not the case when it comes to Federer, Tebow and Newton. If asked a question or facing a critic, they answer in a straightforward manner and look to move on.
In Cam Newton's introductory speech, he talks of anticipating the criticism. That right there shows that, though many doubted his maturity in transitioning to the NFL, he was working on a plan for the move and what was sure to come with it.
They Carry Themselves with Dignity in the Face of Obstacles
Each of these men have faced an obstacle or two during their careers, to say the least.
Tim Tebow continues to deal with the public's comments about his faith and his unconventional playing style as a quarterback.
Roger Federer, especially this year, was constantly reminded of Djokovic's success while being reminded of his failure to live up to past performances.
Cam Newton dealt with the pay-to-play scandal (Cam, of course, was cleared) surrounding his father, Cecil Newton Sr., and continues to deal with critics questioning his ability on the football field.
But in each case, none of these men have responded with bitterness. They have held their heads high and continued their sports careers.
They Have an Innate Skill Set
It's a fact—all three of these athletes are very skilled in their respective sports, or they would not have the career stats that have been discussed and are sure to come.
They Don't Allow the Naysayers To Prevent Them from Pursuing Their Dreams
The most inspirational thing about these three men is they have not slowed up doing what they love best—playing their respective sports. Whether they're winning or losing, being talked about or supported, they give it their all and enjoy every moment of the pursuit.
There's much to learn from these three athletes, and if you're open and willing to really look at their lives both personally and professionally, there's inspiration. Think for a moment; despite all that they have faced and continue to face, these three seem to always find a way to smile. That's something to really think about.