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

Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more on issues than personal attacks. (click for more)

An Act Of Kindness That Can’t Be Measured

A huge thank you is being sent out to Dr. Evan Willing, my chiropractor, for his thoughtful and generous contribution to the teachers at Westview Elementary.  When I mentioned the recent vandalism at Westview to Dr. Willing, and told him how much I was concerned that this had undoubtedly increased stress for the teachers and that this just was not the way to start a school ... (click for more)

Bradley, 24, Charged In Death Of Boy, 3; Child Had Numerous Injuries After Left With Boyfriend; Mother Was In Workhouse

Justin Dale Bradley has been charged with criminal homicide in the death of a three-year-old child, who was rushed to the hospital on Wednesday and later died. Police said Dakota James Arndt had numerous injuries over his body. Authorities said Bradley, 24, is the boyfriend of the child's mother, Brianna Kwekel, who was in the Workhouse at the time. Ms. Kwekel was serving 48 ... (click for more)

Helen Burns Sharp Asks Recovery Of Legal Fees In Successful Black Creek TIF Lawsuit

Helen Burns Sharp, citizen activist who sued to try to stop a $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and won, is seeking to have her legal expenses paid by the city and the developers. Ms. Sharp said in a court filing that her legal bills to attorney John Konvalinka are $74,427 thus far. Chancellor Frank Brown ruled in favor of Ms. Sharp, saying the Sunshine ... (click for more)

Worley-Powered Vols Clobber Utah State, 38-7, In Opener

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee, trying to snap out of the doldrums of four consecutive losing seasons, started its 2014 campaign in fine fashion Sunday night before a season opening sellout crowd of 102,445 that endured a heavy rain story 30 minutes prior to kickoff. And senior quarterback Justin Worley, who missed the final four games in 2013 after undergoing thumb surgery, was ... (click for more)

Lookouts Capture Southern League Northern Division Title With Doubleheader Win Over Smokies

The Chattanooga Lookouts are now playoff bound after sweeping a double-header against the Tennessee Smokies  to clinch the Southern League North Division for the second half of the season. The first game of the double-header was backed by a masterful gem of a game thrown by the starter for the Lookouts, Steve Smith (W, 3-2). Smith dominated the Smokies' lineup from top ... (click for more)