Cam Newton entered the NFL as one of the most critiqued prospects in the draft. He was scrutinized because of the investigation regarding charges that he got paid to attend Auburn. We got on him after he called himself an entertainer and icon. His character was destroyed in Pro Football Weekly’s draft preview. We even pointed out that he struggled to call an audible in Jon Gruden’s televised quarterback camp. That’s a lot of scrutiny for one player. But Cam says it’s the recent failures of JaMarcus Russell and Vince Young that ruined the perception of him.
“But I can’t sit up here and look at it like, oh man, my critics are racist,” Newton said to ESPN the Magazine. “I blame JaMarcus Russell and to some degree Vince Young. If you have the opportunity to make that kind of money doing something you love to do, why would you screw it up? I’m trying to be a trailblazer. If Baylor’s Robert Griffin decides to come out, I want people to say ‘He can be the next Cam Newton’ instead of ‘He’s gonna be the next JaMarcus Russell.’
“I had people who can’t throw a football telling me my mechanics were wrong,” says Newton. “I had people taking shots at my character, classifying me as a thug, as a hoodlum. After Week 3 or 4, all these same people wanted an interview. I said, ‘You were giving me all this crap and had so much to say about how I was gonna play, and now you wanna talk? No. Just sit back and watch the show, man.’”
Considering I was a part of the pack of critics who got on Cam, I’ll explain where my negativity came from. One, whether it’s a white or black draft prospect, we have a tendency to try and find more things wrong with a player than right. These guys just get picked apart in every sense, and I’m guilty of that to some extent. Two, Cam had a very unflattering character around draft time. He was cocky. He did call himself an entertainer. Being humble and considering yourself a team leader are the characteristics we like seeing out of quarterbacks, so I feel those remarks were justified. The reason Cam has become more likable is because he’s changed in his rookie year. He is humble, staying quiet, and proving people wrong through his play. I love that type of attitude and wish he would have acted that way all along.
As far as the racism aspect of his criticism, it probably is accurate to some extent. There are plenty of racist people who still have negativity towards a player because of skin color. But that’s also just the way NFL criticism operates. Remember when there were questions about Andy Dalton because he was a redhead and nobody could think of another redhead who was successful at quarterback? The League can be very silly sometimes. But if I had to explain the negativity towards Cam at draft time, I think the biggest reason is the culture of finding more things wrong with draft prospects than right. That’s probably due to all the highly-drafted quarterbacks who have failed over time, and our failure-obsessed society.
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