If every star athlete kept his mouth shut and only uttered the same old nonsense, the sports world would be a very boring place. So when Cam Newton shows just a hint of personality, the critics shouldn't come flying in from all angles.
But they do.
The 21-year-old is catching flak for telling Peter King that he sees himself "as an entertainer-slash-icon." He later told Yahoo Sports that he doesn't "want to sound arrogant" but that he "did something in one year people couldn't do in their whole collegiate careers."
The comments have drawn critics out of the woodwork, but the kid is simply telling the truth.
Sure, his history shows that he's not a squeaky-clean choirboy, but what he accomplished on the field last year was often jaw-dropping. He won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship, so yes, he did accomplish more in one season than most people can do in four years. It's fact.
Yet, ProFootballTalk has begun wondering "if Newton's attitude is more like Ryan Leaf's than Peyton Manning's." Bleacher Report is concerned that Newton is a "draft bust waiting to happen." Former Cowboy Daryl Johnston said Newton's "not thinking the right way," and A.J. Hawk "can't see any of [the league's current top quarterbacks] ever really saying something like that," according to USA Today.
NFL fans, players and pundits are all questioning whether Newton has his head on straight and whether he has the makeup to be a leader in the NFL.
Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't, but it has nothing to do with the simple statements he's made this week. It doesn't take a rocket scientist — or even a sports fan, for that matter — to understand how marketable an NFL quarterback is to companies. Newton, without even playing one down in the NFL, is already signed on to make millions from Under Armour, according to CNBC's Darrell Rovell. He'll get all the attention leading up to April's draft, even if there are a dozen other players who are more of a sure thing at the NFL level.
Who sold more jerseys this year: Sam Bradford or Maurkice Pouncey?
That's just how the NFL works, and Newton simply understands that. So when he says he wants to be an icon, it just shows he aspires to be the best — and it's not like he said he expects it to be delivered on a silver platter.
"Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, you look at how good they are every year," Newton told Yahoo. "The question is how do they do it? [There is] nothing you can point to but hard work — in the offseason, in the regular season."
That doesn't sound like a kid who doesn't know what to expect over the next few months and the next few years. He wants to be great, and he believes he can be great, and that's the attitude that NFL teams would be elated to have in any of their draft picks.
If his career doesn't turn out the way he wants it to, then the critics are free to pile on. But for now? Let him believe he's the real-life version of Steamin' Willie Beamen. There's enough reason to believe he can pull it off.
Is Cam Newton helping or hurting his draft stock with his confidence? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.