From the time the story broke that Cam Newton’s father had been accused of seeking money from Mississippi State, the barrage began.
Senior Editor Phillip Marshall
No college athlete or coach in my lifetime had to endure as much. Reggie Bush, who brought down the USC program, certainly didn’t. Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor hasn’t. Jim Tressel, his lying coach, hasn’t. Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl, another admitted liar, hasn’t.
Not so for Newton, who stands accused of nothing by anyone who matters.
Through it all, Newton had perhaps the greatest season in college football history, leading Auburn to a 14-0 record and the national championship and winning virtually individual award for which he was eligible. His ability to stay focused through it all was as amazing as his remarkable talent.
Of all the cheap shots Newton endured, the lowest of the low came from NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki, who shortly before the NFL draft leveled a scandalous, personal attack on a young man he’d never met.
For anyone who doesn’t remember, here are some of the things he had to say:
“Very disingenuous — has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup. Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them. Has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law - does not command respect from teammates and always will struggle to win a locker room.
“Only a one-year producer. Lacks accountability, focus and trustworthiness — is not punctual, seeks shortcuts and sets a bad example. Immature and has had issues with authority. Not dependable.
“…An overhyped, high-risk, high-reward selection with a glaring bust factor, Newton is sure to be drafted more highly than he should and could foreclose a risk-taking GM's job and taint a locker room.”
There was lots more, but you get the point.
Those of us who cover Auburn on a daily basis, most of us anyway, knew what he wrote was, to use one head coach Gene Chizik’s favorite words, “garbage.” Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn told everyone who would listen as much. So did Chizik. So did Newton’s teammates. Didn’t matter.
For national types, it had become accepted as undeniable fact that Newton was a bad guy. So what if the NCAA found no evidence he did anything wrong? They believed he did and that was all that mattered. If they couldn’t prove that, he must be an overrated player or not be very intelligent or something. Malzahn’s offense was labeled as ridiculously simple, which was news to all the quarterbacks who played for him.
The Carolina Panthers paid no attention to all the negativity and made Newton the first player chosen in the NFL draft. Despite the NFL lockout, he’s been participating in voluntary workouts with his new teammates.
And lo and behold, they have given him rave reviews. They have seen the same things his former teammates saw – a competitor, a leader, a worker and a good guy with once-in-a-generation talent.
Will Nawrocki admit he’s wrong? Probably about the same time as all the others who assaulted a 20-year-old’s character admit they were wrong.
Meanwhile, Newton will go on doing what he does.