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The Cam Newton debate rages on, as the reigning Heisman winner, fresh off his National Championship and undefeated season with the Auburn Tigers prepares to enter the 2011 NFL Draft.

(from beaumountenterprises.com)

What’s important about this debate is not whether Newton is a star. Out of anyone that has declared for the draft, the biggest name is Cam Newton. He propelled a team that would have been a middle-of-the-row SEC contender to a National Champion. He made Auburn relevant. Newton is a star with even more potential than most. He has a strong sense of awareness and comfort on the playing field, and by now, certainly, a mind-frame built for constant media attention. He has a wonderful sense of how football is played, and a love for the game. Obviously he wants to play football, it is clear that he is good at it (albeit we have only seen how good he is at the college level, I will address this later), and he has a understanding of how to make plays, leadership, and a mental toughness that is almost Tebow-like (perhaps he learned something while under Tebow’s tutelage at Florida).

HIS DRAFT STOCK: Currently, the hype machine (which I will cover in a few) has him as high as #15 on many regarded media members mock draft boards, while some unbiasly have him not being drafted before the first round (see a complete breakdown by David Hyde of the Sun-Sentinal HERE.

Where my thoughts and concerns lie with Cam Newton is the hype, his portrayal, and his going beyond necessary lengths to be made into the next best thing since Peyton Manning/Michael Vick/ Sam Bradford. I will start at the first point:

1. THE HYPE: In a world where the 24-hour news cycle creates a variety of public perception, Newton’s private, but highly publicized work-out at a San Diego high school on February 10th makes me concerned that Newton is trying to build hype for himself more than let his work do the talking. This is where the Tebow/Newton comparisons stop. While Tebow can be commended by constantly trying to put his money where his mouth isn’t and just work hard to prove himself, Newton basks in the spotlight. He seems to desire to be more of a performer than a pro-athlete. By signing on with football trainer and quarterbacks’ coach George Whitfield, Jr. (the trainer who worked out with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger when he was suspended for the first 4 games of the 2010 season) and getting advice and wisdom from Hall of Famer Warren Moon, Newton is putting all the pieces in place to be talked about. Media attention and football appear to be his specialties, and he is proficient at garnering attention for both. But, hype can be the ruin of people (see: Ryan Leaf, Jamarcus Russell, a myriad of other notorious busts and wastes of money), so can Cam rectify doubts about him? Did his media-only “pro-day” workout help or hinder those ideas of him? My thoughts are, through self-promotion, you are building a brand. Newton is trying to boost his draft stock, like most players are. But most players wait until their Pro-Days, or until the NFL Combine (which will be held in Indianapolis on February 23-March 1). He has stated and it has been reported (check the videos posted) that Newton will be attending the NFL Combine, but has not yet committed to what drills he will be participating in. Is this the need for special attention, for his place in the spotlight. He knows that his star power will follow him any and everywhere, why on a “private”stage with all eyes looking? Screams for attention.

Here is video of the aforementioned, “media-only” private workout, from February 10th, via YouTube:

And here is video of Cam Newton discussing his workout, also via YouTube:

2. THE PORTRAYAL OF NEWTON: This coincides with the first thought, but really hits a key point that the videos provide. What we are seeing here, as the second video has Newton saying, is that “he has a job to do” like all of us. Is his job to be a celebrity with athletic pursuits or a prospective NFL rookie trying to get drafted. I think that while he is attempting the latter, he is committing the former. I think the timing may have been right for him to pursue this avenue of exposure, but the timing, with looming NFL Labor talks and current veterans and players in the league trying to sure up their futures is the last thing on Cam Newton’s mind. To be apart of something is to be more than about yourself. You have to look into your potential employers state, past, present, and future. If Newton’s actions reflect the NFL’s current state, it is looking truly selfish right now (which is more telling than anything). With his past off-the-field issues involving his dad’s “pay-for-play” schemes and the drama that followed him during constantly throughout his collegiate career, it would be understandable that Newton is trying to push that out of the media’s mind with an outstanding performance, showing his football prowess. Nevertheless, his perception is clouded, and a bit convoluted, and is mostly of his own doing. His character is an argument that changes from venue to venue, depending on who you talk to. For the most part, he is a well-spoken, confident, talented young man that wants to play football; others believe he is a self centered little boy who hops from place to place using his obvious talents to usurp the spotlight and gain more than he has to give, other than his natural attributes. I believe it’s a mixture of both. No matter what it is, Newton is a topic that has no right or wrong answer, just perceptions that he feeds with his actions.

from Chris Park/AP: Cam Newton (left) gets a slap on the back from Hall of Fame QB Warren Moon at his media only workout in San Diego on 2/10/11.

3. GOING OUTSIDE WHAT’S NECESSARY: As I have said previously, with the NFL Combine approaching in the next few weeks and a Pro-Day for every major draft prospect coming soon after that, Newton would have had ample opportunity to show off while everyone else was, and been guarenteed more shine than others. Nearly a month before anyone else is even thinking about projecting themselves to media consumption, Newton has to be on a level on his own. Can’t his abilities be proven during appropriate times? Was February 10th appropriate? Maybe, maybe not, but my main issue is that it seems as a desperate attempt to prove something that he has proven in his play as a collegiate. Plus, with the appropriate dates for “try-outs” in front of scouts, media, NFL personnel, etc. coming in ernest in the next few months leading up to the April NFL draft, teams will have ample opportunity to see him and his hard work. He has only been working out a few months, what if he gets better, what if he drops off from this point? Will he have more sneak previews in the coming months in this style of “all about me”? What does Cam stand to gain from this type of “over-exposure”? What he stands to gain is getting talked about, mentioned, discussed, broken down. ESPN NFL Anaylist and Super Bowl winning QB Trent Dilfer was astonished by Newton’s abilities, and states so here, via YouTube:

Those are my big questions concerning Cam Newton, and more answers will be revealed as the draft looms. There is no debate on the type of athlete Cam Newton is. He is unbelievable, and the footage of his workouts prove that. He is going to be a tremendous quarterback, if he keeps working at it. However, he still has a lot to prove. Is he Peyton Manning/Michael Vick/Vince Young (with a better attitude) rolled up into one, it seems that way, but is he going to translate to the fast-paced, challenging, tough, and hard-hitting speed of the NFL is to be determined. My bet is on Newton falling short of his, and the media’s expectations if he continues to flaunt himself rather than prepare himself more and more. Just because you’ve worked out with a trainer for two weeks does not make you NFL ready.

Here is one final quote from Newton, from USAToday.com:
“This whole transformation from the college level to the NFL is a big leap,” he said. “But at the same time, you have to be mature enough to be able to work on your talent when nobody is looking. This is your profession, this is your job. And I have to come at it every single day trying to get better at what I do.”

from Chris Park/AP: Newton works out while trainers surround him during “private, media-only” work out in San Diego on 2/10/11.

Let’s hope that Newton can live up to his self-created and self-inflicted hype. You are trying to be one of the big boys now.

Sources and information used for this post are from ESPN.COM, Nationalfootballpost.com, usatoday.com, sun-sentinal.com.

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One thought on “Newton: Undeniably Talented, but will he fit in NFL:The Big Questions.

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