Cam Newton: What Not to Say

Guest Post by Abdul Yaro, Edited by Susan Shan

Former Auburn University quarterback and 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton did little this week to dispel rumors that he lacks the character and maturity required to be an elite quarterback and leader in the National Football League. In a phone interview with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, Newton delivered this memorable quote:

“I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon.”

For a player and father who are so intent on generating and sustaining media buzz leading up to the NFL Draft in April, Cam’s loose grasp of the English language, not his athletic prowess, may be his undoing yet.

It’s a snapshot of the mind of an impressionable 20-something-year-old who, despite personal hiccups, has managed to forge a stellar athletic career in a very short period of time. But, like most young men his age, he also seems to confuse hubris for confidence.

There’s no doubt that Newton possesses a unique set of athletic skills that any football coach with half a brain would covet, but his latest misstep proves one thing to me: this kid is not ready for prime-time.

Over the next month and a half, he’ll be poked and prodded and questioned over and over about his past and future plans, all while under the watchful eye of his father, Cecil – the mastermind behind the machine that is Cam.

His response is just another example of a young athlete with inexperienced handlers who don’t know how to navigate and leverage the athlete’s ability in the hypercompetitive world of professional sports. Stick a microphone in front of a guy, and he fancies himself the next Bryant Gumbel.

Newton didn’t refer to himself as an “icon” to prop up his own ego; he did it because he doesn’t understand the gravity or meaning of what he just said. In his mind, he thinks he’s pitching to NFL teams how he’ll be the next Michael Jordan, but all they see is the next Keyshawn Johnson, demanding to be given the “damn ball.”

No NFL team wants to draft an icon. When distilled, the word infers that he’s a diva, prima donna, high-maintenance, and ultimately, a player whose No. 1 priority is not football.

Newton has done a masterful job thus far of charming us all with his camera-ready smile, biblical teachings, and one-liners that have been rehearsed to no end with media handlers. However, King was fortunate enough to catch him in an unmasked moment.

The fact remains that there are many unanswered questions about Newton’s character and the type of people he surrounds himself with. For a player and family intent on rewriting their own history, this latest statement is a gross error in judgment at a time when they can least afford it.

Newton is days away from the biggest job interview of his life, but now, every potential employer is under the impression that he’s just another arrogant jerk.

Here’s some advice for you, Cam: in your case, less is more. Let the actual pros do their jobs and help you, and when they do, stick to the script. Your only goal over the next month and a half should be for teams and fans to hear more from your arms and legs and less from your mouth.

Get a job and contract first; THEN, begin to work on becoming an icon.

Abdul Yaro is a sales executive for an education software company by day and sports fan, foodie, and traveler the rest of the time. He is also the creator of the blog iSportsFanaddict. You can follow him on Twitter @SportsFanaddict.

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