Auburn University quarterback Cam Newton is the most electrifying player in college football. The junior signal caller has thrown for over 2,000 yards and connected on 21 touchdown passes. When he’s not carving up opponents through the air, he’s doing so on the ground. He’s rushed for 17 touchdowns and nearly 1,300 yards.
His number-two-ranked Auburn Tigers are in the hunt for a national championship. Most consider Newton to be the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. But recently, all of these undeniable facts have taken a backseat to a story that’s unfolding off the field.
To better understand that story, it’s important to know Newton’s backstory. His college career began in Florida where he was the understudy to Heisman Trophy winner, Tim Tebow. While at Florida, Newton ran into some off-the-field trouble for purchasing a laptop that had been stolen. It’s important to note that he was cleared of any wrongdoing in the matter. Still, he decided to transfer from the school once Tebow announced that he would return for his senior season. After playing a year of junior college ball, Newton was considered to be the top quarterback prospect in the nation. Countless teams wanted him, but he ultimately chose Auburn.
Since his first game, he’s drawn national attention with his phenomenal play. But earlier this month, the media began to focus on something else that’s proven to be phenomenal—the sordid details behind Newton’s recruitment. The story is a complicated one, as well as one which seems to change by the hour. But at the center of it stand two men. A former Mississippi State football player named Kenny Rogers, and Cam’s father, Cecil.
Kenny Rogers recently told ESPN radio that Cecil Newton, a pastor, first contacted Rogers in 2008 when they discussed the possibility of Cam playing for Mississippi State. It was then that Cecil Newton told Rogers that his son’s recruitment was “not gonna be free this time.” On November 27, 2009, the two men met with a couple of MSU coaches in the lobby of a Starkville, MS hotel. According to Rogers, Cecil brought up the topic of money, but the MSU coaches were quick to tell the athlete’s father that they weren’t willing to engage in any such conversation.
When asked how much money Cam’s dad wanted in return for a commitment from his son, Rogers answered “anywhere between $100,000 and $180,000.” Rogers said that he knew nothing about Cam’s recruitment with Auburn or any other school, and added that he did not know why the quarterback ended up selecting Auburn. He also said that he did not know whether or not Cam knew his dad was trying to arrange a “pay for play” scenario. Rogers made it clear that the only involvement he had had with the Newtons pertained to Mississippi State.
This past weekend, Atlanta’s WSB-TV reported that a “source close to the situation” told one of their reporters that Cecil Newton “has admitted having conversations with an ex-Mississippi State University player about the possibility of under-the-table money if Cam Newton signed to play football at Mississippi State.” This admission contradicts earlier denials issued by the pastor. According to the source, Cam’s dad stressed that neither Cam, Cam’s mother nor Auburn University knew anything about the situation.
Now officials from Auburn, Mississippi Sate, the Southeastern Conference, the NCAA and even the FBI are trying to sort everything out. It’s quite possible that they will uncover a recruiting violation which would disqualify Newton from participating in this year’s season. If that’s the case, any game in which he’s played this year would be forfeited. And if that ends up happening, his magical season will have been for naught.
The entire story is a sad one that exposes the underbelly of college athletics. While I’m not naive enough to be shocked by such unscrupulous dealings, I am dismayed that this particular account prominently features a player’s parent. The only role any parent should ever play in such a scenario is the one of fiduciary advisor to help his or her child steer clear of such a money-grubbing opportunist, not the role of the money-grubbing opportunist, himself. But if Cecil Newton’s involvement is even close to what it appears to be, his role was just that.
What parents like Mr. Newton don’t realize is that their pathological involvement in the affairs of their children usually has the opposite affect of the one which they had intended. It usually becomes a detriment to the child’s pursuit, as well as to the child. In trying to improve upon the child’s future, they actually endanger it.
Like most parents who fall prey to such behavior, Cecil Newton probably lives vicariously through his son to an unhealthy degree, likely to the point where he feels somewhat responsible for Cam’s success, hence his sense of monetary entitlement. If his involvement is what it appears to be, it’s very possible that Cecil has cost his son one of the most coveted trophies in all of sports as well as a shot at a national championship.
But it’s not just Cam his alleged behavior has affected. It’s also Cam’s teammates, Auburn University, the football-crazed state of Alabama, and an entire nation of adoring fans.
Cam Newton only has one regular season game left. It’s against Auburn’s instate rival, Alabama, in an annual matchup known simply as the Iron Bowl. If you get the chance to see him play (assuming he’s allowed), I hope you’ll watch. Because there’s something different about Cam. From his on-the-field leadership, to his poise under pressure, to his unparalleled athletic ability. He regularly makes the spectacular look routine.
And while doing so, he’s usually wearing a wide grin. It’s an infectious and magical one that stretches from ear-to-ear—a true million-dollar smile, to be sure.
Only his dad tried to sell it for 180,000 bucks. And in so doing, he’s taken away some of its magic. And no one should have ever taken that from the kid. Especially his dad.
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