So I've been holding back my opinon on Auburn QB phenom Cam Newton all year, but after watching him on the sidelines during the SEC Championship game and seeing the interview he just did with Chris Fowler for ESPN today, I just have to spout off.
I've said before that it's important not to be too hard on college athletes. They're young and inexperienced when it comes to the spotlight, the media, and their athletic prowess, so they're bound to slip up here and there and we should all treat them with a lower level of scrutiny than the pros that get paid to do what they do.
All that said, this kid is really starting to wear on my nerves.
There is no question in my mind that he's the best player in college football right now and that he is deserving of the Heisman Trophy, which he will undoubtedly win in a landslide on Saturday night in New York. The kid is doing things on the field that no one else is capable of right now (and yes, as an OSU fan and Terrelle Pryor apologist, that is hard to say), and the fact that his team is in the National Championship game with an undefeated record is testament to that.
What I don't like about Newton, and what I can't help but criticize the kid for, is his attitude. Everyone has heard the stories (and allegations) by now: he was caught buying a stolen laptop and then throwing it out the window when the cops showed up while playing for Florida, he had to high tail it out of Gainesville because he may or may not have cheated his way through school, his father openly shopped his services to schools like Mississippi State (and probably Auburn too) to the tune of $200,000 after Newton spent a year in Junior College.
That's a lot of heat on a guy who is barely old enough to drink a beer and is only in his Junior year of college. It's especially eyebrow-raising considering the size of his star on the football field and the profile that comes with being on one of the best teams in college football. Now, if it were me, and I was facing all of this media attention and was the subject of allegation after allegation about things that happened off the field, I think I would have a little bit of perspective. Even at that young age, I think I would realize that I needed to keep my head down and be as humble and as unassuming as possible for the duration of my career as a college quarterback.
Cam doesn't seem to feel the same way. He's been playing to the crowd all year after Auburn victories, strutting around the field and hamming it up for the student section (and cameras) with the whole world watching. That's all well and good I suppose, but "Cammy Cam Juice"? Come on dood. If you aren't familiar, that's a little concoction that Cam made on the sidelines during Auburn's rout of South Carolina in the SEC championship game. I guess it was some blend of Gatorade flavors. You know, the kind ten year old kids make when Mom leaves them alone at home with their buddies. Not only will Tracy Wolfson never live that one down, but it's also extremely lame, and nothing short of arrogant and attention grabbing.
Then there's the aforementioned interview with Fowler on ESPN, in which Newton repeatedly refers to himself in the third person and seems completely out of tune with the way folks are looking at him right now. Psst...Cam! Uh, it turns out you're in deep shit bro, so you might want to look up "contrite" in the old dictionary and see if you can act more like a man facing a laundry list of allegations and less an egomaniac who walks between the raindrops.
I'm sure he's being coached on what to say and more importantly, what not to, but he comes off like a guy who doesn't think he's done anything wrong and will never face any repercussions for the money his father was trying to squeeze out of Mississippi State (and who knows what other schools) during his second recruitment. Newton might be innocent, but I just can't believe that he had no knowledge of what was going on as far as the pay-for-play stuff. He had to have known something, if not everything, and if that's the case I would once again encourage a low profile. That means not talking about yourself in the third person and making "Cammy Cam Juice" on the sidelines. Ugh.
All of this amid the backdrop of what just happened to USC and Reggie Bush, who were stripped of a National Championship and a Heisman Trophy respectively for the gifts that Bush and his family received while he was playing at Southern Cal. Newton, the alleged $200,000 man, seems either to not have seen what happened to Bush, or not to care, and that just irks me to no end. It's possible he knows that he isn't coming back to play out his Senior season at Auburn next year and therefore doesn't give a rat's ass what happens once he's playing in the NFL, but that again points to a dizzying level of arrogance and an unabashed ambivalence towards the fate of the Auburn football program that are both equally galling.
As Bush could (and perhaps should) tell young Cam, it's not what happens to you, but the lasting damage you can do to your school when the dust finally settles and all of the wrongdoing comes to light. There are kids playing for USC right now that don't get to compete for a National Championship or go to a bowl, and they were playing high school football when Bush was taking money from agents and getting his parents set up in a cushy new house in southern California. At the end of the day, it is exactly this kind of disregard for the fate and feelings of others that I see in Cam Newton's actions that really grinds my gears.
Newton is a fantastic college quarterback and one helluva a fine athlete, but he seems to fall very short of what I would call an upstanding young man. He's cocky, brash, and bold, and while that might be all well and good for the country's best player under normal circumstances, in the wake of all the smoke that continues to build around his tenure in college, I think it's a bad M.O. to carry. The fires of controversy only seem to get warmer with each passing day for Cam, and he only seems to grow more defiant. I don't care if the NCAA has given him a bogus bill of good health as far as his eligibility is concerned, I flat out don't like the way he carries himself and I had to let the world (or at least the handful of folks who read this blog) know about it.