Newton Continues To Prove Critics Wrong

Inside the Auburn Tigers columnist Jason Caldwell explains why quarterback Cam Newton continues to make his critics look foolish as he works with his teammates in Carolina.

As I sit and watch ESPN make national headlines out of the news that former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is quickly winning over his teammates with the Carolina Panthers with his work ethic and willingness to be a part of the team, all I can do is laugh.

Laugh at the media who were so quick to jump on a young man and judge his character without ever knowing him or speaking to him. Laugh at the NFL analysts who said there were questions about his leadership ability and his desire to play the game.

From the time Newton stepped foot on the Auburn campus that's all he ever did. From spring practice, through summer conditioning and voluntary team workouts, to two-a-days and throughout the 2010 season all Newton did was lead by example time and time again.

The first indication I had that Newton was going to be something special was last summer. Watching a summer football camp at Auburn with hundreds of kids in attendance, I was hot and bordering on miserable. Throw in that it was a Saturday and I could think of many things I would have rather been doing that on the hot and steamy practice fields with temperatures unusally high for early in the morning.

When the rains came it sent people racing for the indoor facility, but not Newton and several young wide receivers he had coaxed to work out with him at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. They kept at it while the rain fell and from that point forward my expectations of Auburn's chances for a high level of success in 2010 began to rise.

In the season opener he ran for 171 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 attempts and completed 9-14 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns. It was just a glimpse of what the season would hold for Newton has he finished the year with 50 total touchdowns as he won just about every major award in college football.

He did all that with probably more distractions surrounding him than any player in college football history.

Now ESPN is making headlines out of a story that Newton is impressing his teammates and others at Carolina in voluntary workouts while the league is in a lockout. That's not news, it's a network still trying to cover itself after time and time again questioning his ability and character.

Cam Newton shows a Carolina Panthers jersey after he was the first player selected in the 2011 National Football League Draft.

Much of the draft talking leading up to and following his selection was about why Newton wasn't a good choice for the Panthers, why he would struggle, why he couldn't do this, why he probably wouldn't do that. What ESPN and the rest of the doubting media fail to realize is that Newton has heard it all time and time again.

He heard it out of high school when teams told him he couldn't throw well enough to play quarterback. He heard it from Florida when John Brantley was named Tim Tebow's successor in waiting. He heard it from media wondering if he could throw the ball well enough for Auburn to win when defenses stopped Auburn's running game. Finally he heard it from draft pundits questioning his skill set translating to the NFL.

So far he has not only answered the bell, but he's smashed it with his play on the field. Now I'm not saying Newton is the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. I'm not guaranteeing a Hall of Fame career or even a Pro Bowl career, but I can guarantee one thing. The guys that questioned Newton's work ethic, his ability to lead a team and his hunger to win are as wrong as they'll ever be, and that's saying something.

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