Roy Exum: The ‘Real’ Cam Newton

Thursday, October 21, 2010 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Shortly before the Wrights Mill Road Elementary School in Auburn, Ala., would welcome its students back from summer vacation, principal Lynda Tremaine was surprised one morning to see a 6-foot-6 goliath of a young man standing in her doorway.

He introduced himself as Cameron Newton and said his goal was to one day open a child care center and help kids. He explained he was a football player at the university, and he wondered if he might be able to mentor some kids who might be struggling.

At the time she had never heard of Cam Newton, but most of the world hadn’t either. That was in early August, and today, just over two months later, he is the hottest player in all of college football. What you need to know is that since his dizzying ascent to stardom began, he’s not missed a week without going to Wrights Mill Road Elementary School.

Every Monday he comes, sitting with a handful of fifth-grader boys who desperately need a role model, and he goes over their school work, their behavior and their goals. Every Saturday he plays quarterback for Auburn, where he has led the fifth-ranked Tigers to a 7-0 record and been named as the SEC Player of the Week three different times.

With five regular-season games left to play, Newton is one touchdown away from Auburn’s record for most touchdowns in one season. He has scored 25 times, one shy of Heisman winner Pat Sullivan’s 26 in 1970.

Sullivan is delighted. “I’m pulling for him because he’s a great player, but more important than that, he’s a great person. He’s representing Auburn in a first-class manner, and that’s important to me.”

The trouble is, that’s not the story America wants to hear. No, in a sad commentary on all of us, most enjoy the tale of how Cam Newton was arrested several years ago when he was at the University of Florida. We want to hear how he was suspended indefinitely and eventually quit the team.

The way the story goes is that Newton actually decided to transfer before he bought a stolen laptop. He reportedly painted it – he knew it was “hot” – and police found it behind a dumpster after Newton allegedly tossed it from a third-floor window. The joke is they knew it was a quarterback’s because it missed the dumpster.

Well, by the time the whole sordid mess got straightened out, the kid from Atlanta left Gainesville under a rather dark cloud and enrolled in tiny Blinn Jr. College in Texas. “It was a culture shock, to say the least,” Newton has since said.

“I go from the University of Florida, where you can get Gatorade at your beck and call, to a place you have to paint your stadium for you to at least look like the program is up to some kind of standard."

That’s right, the players actually painted the bleachers one day. "I think it was one of the most influential changes in my life, hands down. Everybody has that turning point in their life where they can say, 'That's when I really decided to put things all together.'"

Better, it’s a round-about way of explaining not only how he grew up and “got his focus,” but why now, every week, he takes little bags of candy to an elementary school and goes over fifth graders’ mistakes. “It’s a serious conversation,” said the principal, Mrs. Tremaine. “He goes through each page of their work, and he’ll say, ‘Mmm … 65? Not good. What happened here?’

“He holds them accountable, too. He found out what kind of candy each boy likes, but this week he had to leave it because each of his boys had gotten a behavior check. He wouldn’t give them their little rewards. That’s how serious he takes his visits,” the educator told Rachel Moreland of AuburnSports.com.

As signs like “Scootin’ Newton For Heisman” and “Yes We Cam!” have sprouted in Jordan-Haire Stadium, Cam’s presence at Wrights Mill Road Elementary has also blossomed. Now he speaks every week to children in the whole school who, through grades and behavior and kindness to others, earn the chance to visit with him.

“The teachers can’t believe the difference in attitude. He was made-to-order for our program,” the principal said. She also said she’s been floored by his sincerity. “I don’t want to speak for him, but I believe he really enjoys what he’s doing here.”

Mrs. Tremaine said that once he brought the Auburn mascot, “Aubie,” with him and was surprised to find a third grader sitting alone in the principal’s office. “Aubie scares me,” the child explained, and Cam – the guy who once bought a ‘hot’ laptop - promptly sat down in the floor and had a gentle conversation that brought tears to those nearby.

“He’s doing this, without a doubt, out of the kindness in his heart. He really wants to make a difference,” the principal said. “He told his boys, ‘You know, there were times when I was bad when I was your age, too,’ but he lets them know that we learn from our mistakes.”

Obviously Cam Newton has learned much. And it’s a better tale than the more popular one going around about the best college football player in America.

royexum@aol.com

Cam Newton
Cam Newton
- Photo2 by Auburn


Sewage Contaminating Our Water

For anyone who lives near Moccasin Bend, it's no secret that there is raw sewage and feces being pumped into our water and the Tennessee River. Ask any fisherman or boater who is on the water before they stop pumping of a morning and they will tell you stories such as this. I've seen it myself personally and have witnessed the brown and yellow concoction that is being blasted into ... (click for more)

City Council’s Critical Call—Creek Consensus?

The Friars Branch Stream Restoration Project cost the city $1.2 million after new homes were flooded along Hickory Valley Road caused by inadequate stormwater management during the development of Hamilton Place upstream.  The residents dealing with the floodwaters suffered cleanup costs as did the city.  Allowing homebuilders to cover up more surface with impervious homes ... (click for more)

City Council Votes On 1st Reading To Lower Rain Retention Requirement In South Chickamauga Creek Basin

The City Council on Tuesday voted to lower the requirement for rainwater retention in the South Chickamauga Creek basin. The move from holding the first 1.6 inches to one inch had been requested by the Home Builders Association and the Berke administration. Sandy Kurtz, longtime leader of the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway Alliance, said the resolution was "not yet ready ... (click for more)

Former Pilot Regional Account Specialist Says Former President Mark Hazelwood Approved Of Fraud

When well-known attorney Rusty Hardin on Tuesday asked a former Pilot regional account specialist if she believed that former president Mark Hazelwood knew of a plan to cheat trucking firms he didn't get the answer he expected. Holly Radford told a jury in Chattanooga, "I know he had knowledge of the rebate schemes that were going on. "I had conversations with him about it ... (click for more)

Davis, Volker Power Soddy-Daisy Past Hixson 53-31

Tuesday was Game 2 for Bill Eller being back on the sideline as a head basketball coach. “I was nervous as heck in the first one,” Eller said Tuesday night after his Trojans belted Hixson, 53-31, behind the potent one-two scoring punch of Josh Davis and Doug Volker. “But this is my 29 th year coaching. It’s like riding a bicycle and once the ball is tipped, it’s about the ... (click for more)

CCS Sweeps Polk Co. In Thanksgiving Round Robin

Coach Eddie Salter appears to have a pretty good basketball team at Chattanooga Christian, but he’s still looking for the right chemistry as he finds the best combination of players to put on the floor. The season is still really young and the Chargers had only played one game coming into their annual Thanksgiving Round Robin Tournament Tuesday night, but it looks like he will ... (click for more)