Friday, April 29, 2011

A Chance for Cam Newton to Prove Critics Wrong Is Now


He heard his name called by commissioner Roger Goodell, he heard the annoying draftniks chant boos inside the Radio City Music Hall in New York, and he grinned as he walked on stage dressed sharply for the occasion. No one knows exactly if Cam Newton will be a bust or franchise player in the near future, but the Carolina Panthers certainly believe so, picking the unproven quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

There's no telling whether or not he'll be an immediate impact or an absolute waste, knowingly downplaying the unpleasant reactions from the rowdy spectators sitting in the balconies when the Panthers gambled on an ambiguous product in the draft. It's the same story heard every spring, a common trait on the status of an unproven player, especially if the quarterback is selected before anybody else in the draft.

At this time, we can only hope that Newton, battered by a grisly scandal after his father allegedly auctioned his son and violated NCAA rules, isn't another Ryan Leaf, Joey Harrington, David Carr, Alex Smith, Tim Couch, and lastly, the saddest bust in our generation JaMarcus Russell. So when Goodell was booed notoriously before he walked onto the stage and announced Newton as the Panthers' No. 1 pick Thursday, the boorish crowd gathered as the people booed and jeered.

There'd be a reason for Newton to dazzle and surprise the world that would vividly silence the doubters, an ill-advised prospect disrespected by the vast majority, discrediting seemingly the best quarterback in the draft like he's not worthy of elevating his throwing motion, unbalanced mechanics and accuracy. If he does adjust his weaknesses, delivering crafty passes and standing as an asset in the franchise to profoundly be a remedy and dismiss the futility, Carolina can end the painful deficiencies to slowly cultivate the fallen team.

Because he rose steadily throughout his collegiate career at Auburn, where he won the stiff-armed statue and guided Auburn to a national title, he cemented a flattering stature with his athleticism and brawny arm strength, including his versatility to boldly rush for yardage by utilizing his agility and explosiveness on turf when he is normally lethal. Through it all, he fought off adversity and stayed composed as a matured athlete with immense talent to endure fear and endless derision from critics who deeply revealed a sense of dislike towards Newton ever since a malevolent pay-for-play scandal surfaced during his greatest college season that bolstered his draft status.

As he avoided much of the torture from fans on an unexpected night at the raucous Radio City Music Hall where the crowd serenaded unpleasantly and jeered at Goodell, the fans madly pleaded for football next season. "We want football!" The night for the commish was painful, but not so much for Newton, although he walked on stage and had his photo taken as mixed reactions echoed throughout the building. And most importantly, after all, he is the Panthers franchise player for now. As for the folks in Charlotte, everybody wishes for the best possible scenario, confident that he won't ever be a bust and instead the godlike savior in a town that desperately needed a franchise star, someone the citizens can idolize.

When it comes to the mental capacity and the fiery nature he brings that inspires his teammates to fight with fortitude and readiness, proving his critics wrong as virtually a prime leader, Newton solidifies the humility and sacrifices his ego at the helm. It was fittingly a night for Newton, quite honestly, to silence the critics and perfectly prove the doubters wrong when the nation believes he's not intelligent enough to adapt to an NFL playbook, when the nation feel he's cancer with a series of off-the-field troubles and when the nation thinks he'll never develop to the pro-style offense. This was an unforeseen moment, a perfect timing to hush the disbelievers. This was for the haters who've said he'd never shine in the NFL. This was for the doubters who've said all week that he'll be forgotten come the draft.

What??

In theory of his status, he was proven to be the best quarterback on the boards in what was the craziest draft, filled with so much unpredictability and suspenseful ramifications. The No. 2 pick, as we know by now, was Von Miller, an explosive rusher after developing into one of the top sack specialist. When his name was announced -- strangely enough -- it was simple to reflect back on his anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL, labeled as a plaintiff more than a monstrous linebacker.

With very strong emotions, he burst into tears of joy, speechless once he stepped onto the stage where he greeted and hugged Goodell proudly. The stunner came at the No. 8 pick when the Tennessee Titans foolishly picked Jake Locker, a quarterback who is injury-prone and even widely considered as a potential bust. With the 19th pick in the draft, the New York Giants were clever enough not to wastefully obtain a useless prospect that benefits the Giants in the future and selected cornerback Prince Amukamara, the son of a Nigerian chief.

So, he would have fitted nicely with the Kansas City Chiefs, too.

For weeks, whether the heavy talk has created a debate that Newton isn't built to play in the NFL, he was targeted by the Panthers and intriguing to first-year head coach Ron Rivera and the new coaching staff which doesn't have faith in the uninspired Jimmy Clausen. Many critics brushed aside Newton, presumably because the perception of the nonsense was that he never had the potential or intangibles to be a premier quarterback.

This, in the meantime, inspired Newton to play harder and thrive as a pioneer in the sport. Every time he was doubted, particularly in a program that represented the SEC, he responded such is when he emerged from the tunnel at Bryant-Denny Stadium for the Iron Bowl against Alabama last November and carried the Tigers in the largest comeback in school history to defeat their archrivals with a substantial 28-27 win.

"I'm ready to get this show on the road right now," Newton said earnestly on Thursday, moments after he was selected by the worst NFL franchise last season. "I've learned a lot from this process. I've learned that you guys in the media have a job to do in critiquing each athlete to his core, but at the same time, I have embraced this process and understand that everything is under the watchful eye right now. Nothing's going to change. I'm going to progress to be great."

And in this draft, with less talent in a diminutive quarterback core, standing out as the favorable prospect in the entire draft, he publicly earned the national spotlight. However, even if he is the No. 1 pick overall, Newton, a 6-foot-6, 250 pound athlete with stamina and agility, is facing much uncertainty in 2011. What is nice is that, beyond the idea of Newton being a probable bust, is that he has the opportunity, a wonderful chance to stun the world and ripen as a useful product in the Panthers organization.

What isn't clear, when all the speculations are unknown, is whether or not he's a bust. If there are believers, it's because Rivera and GM Marty Hurney speak highly of Newton and grasp a sense that he can excel with stiff expectations.

We can only hope that he proves America wrong.