Tuesday, January 11, 2011
inCAMparable: Cam Newton Caps-Off Remarkable Season
That was the moment Auburn kicker Wes Byrum split the uprights to give the Tigers a 22-19 win over Oregon in the National Championship game. Immediately the camera turned toward the team's beat up and battered quarterback. But, even after season filled with hits both on and off the field, there was Cam Newton, smiling.
Be honest, when you made your preseason predictions, unless you live in Auburn, Alabama, you did not think the Tigers would be playing in tonight's game and even the truest college football nerds may have known Cam Newton only as "the guy who got kicked out of Florida, right?"
Today, he is the most talked about player in college football. But, after the year he had, it should be because of what he accomplished as a player and nothing else.
The Heisman Trophy winner's season was soured by the pay-to-play scheme put together by his father Cecil. Cam was cleared of any wrongdoing because the NCAA said it found no evidence he knew of his dad's plan to have him sign with the school that paid the most for his talents.
Do I believe that entirely, probably not. Will some always say he should have been suspended, probably. One fact can't be argued, every time Cam Newton stepped on the field during the 2010-2011 college football season, he was above and beyond the best player.
This isn't a Danny Almonte-type case. Cam wasn't some 25-year-old dominating a middle school league. He was young man who made some missteps early in his career, but matured into a poised, determined, unflappable winner.
The NCAA has no business going any further with the Newton investigation. They forfeited that right last week when they allowed Terrelle Pryor and his fellow pawn stars to suit up for the Sugar Bowl. The Association made it clear that punishing "student"-athletes is acceptable, unless it effects their profits.
They are cashing in on Newton, too. I have a good feeling a healthy portion of Americans were tuned in to the BCS title game Monday night and it wasn't to sit through the TV car wash, also known as Lou Holtz's lisp.
It was all about Cam, all the time. He meant big ratings and big bucks. So even if he did take $200,000, he made the NCAA, ESPN, Tostitos, and the rest of college football's big wigs that times ten.
What is probably most impressive is that Newton didn't let this thousand pound weight of controversy hold him down on the field.
His statistics, remarkable.
Newton became just the third player in NCAA FBS history with 20-rushing and 20-passing touchdowns in a single season. He threw for more than 2,000 yards and ran for more than 1,000. That's never been done in the history-rich SEC. Newton rallied his team from 24-points down to beat arch-rival Alabama. He tossed a career-best six touchdowns in the SEC title game. And to top it all off, he torched Oregon for more than 300-total yards and two-touchdowns in the National Championship.
Think of the best players over the last 15-years in college football and none of them have had a season like Newton's. Not Tebow, Ingram, Bradford, Bush, Leinart, Young, Ricky Williams, Woodson, Manning, or everyone's favorite senior citizen Chris Weinke.
The next step for Cam Newton is a legal payday in the NFL. He's obviously tremendously skilled and appears to have the mental fortitude to make it at the next level, but that remains to be seen.
What he accomplished this season is something we may never see again.
Both on and off the field, every time Newton was knocked down, he got back up. When odds were against him, he dug deep and found a way to get it done. He turned every obstacle into opportunity, so it seems only right that Newton was the last man standing, and of course, smiling.