This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
This year's NFL Draft holds the promise of teams licking their chops at mining a wealth of quarterback prospects. No matter how deep that list runs, one 6'6", 250-pound monster-armed talent stands head and shoulders above the rest. Auburn's quarterback Cam Newton was this year's stand-out college player. There was no debate. Scouts, coaches, pro players current and past resoundingly weighed in with kudos on the order of not having seen a monumental talent like Newton in quite some time.
Yet, even as Newton dazzled throughout the college season, questions regarding his character constantly shadowed him. He had stolen a lap-top computer while at Florida, tossing it out his dorm window when police knocked on his door. He actually faced expulsion from Florida when found guilty of three separate instances of cheating in his academic courses. And the big cloud hovering over Newton has been the case of his father illegally demanding as much as $200,000 under the table to have his bionic son play elsewhere, upon leaving Florida. The NCAA investigation allowed Newton to play this year, finding that he knew nothing of his father's illicit calls, but the case is not in fact closed. There is a distinct possibility that a few years down the road, Cam Newton will be forced to follow in Reggie Bush's footsteps and have to return the coveted Heisman Trophy he tucked under his bicep this year.
Well, if character issues dogged Newton throughout his college career, that syndrome will escalate in the NFL. The scouting combine last weekend was for the quarterback class, yes, all about 40-yard dash times, vertical jumps, broad jumps, accuracy of passes, quickness of drop-backs into the pocket. Surprisingly, Newton was not stellar throughout the physical drills. And there are some concerns about his college tendency to run often with the ball, not a tendency sought after in the pros, Michael Vick aside.
But with the quarterback position comes not only all the physical skills, the quick decision-making abilities, but that character issue that Newton knows all too well is paramount in leading an NFL squad as well. The media has made much of Newton's off-putting swagger last week when he said, "I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon." An outcry of weak personal essence has resounded since that remark. Name another quarterback in the league, even the top entertainers, such as Saturday Night Live host Peyton Manning, who would talk about himself in such terms. Not a one. Even go back to Joe Namath. Sure, he was brazen in predicting the Jets' upset in the Super Bowl, but as gigantic an icon as he became, he never called himself one.
Well, to my mind, Newton sounds more immature than weak of character with this silly remark. He's already apologized for it, humble in calling it a first-rate faux pas. At the news conference microphone, post combine on Sunday, he quickly addressed the mistake of stealing that laptop. And he dropped back on his icon mention to say re fully realizes playing the game well must and is his primary focus.
Me? If I were an NFL scout, I wouldn't worry about Cam Newton's character. My concern would be the inaccuracy of those passes he mis-threw throughout the combine.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.