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


Civil War II

These same people have been around with us for a very long time. See Ecclesiastes Chapter 10 Verse 2. " The wise man's understanding turns him to his right; the fool's understanding turns him to the left. Thus says the Lord." The rest of the chapter is also worth reading. Democrats, Liberals, Progressives are all the same, the only thing they want is power over people since they ... (click for more)

Transparency Needed In County Government

On Aug. 29 of last year, Jim Coppinger convened a press conference on the courthouse steps to announce that he was raising property taxes. The mayor and commission gave no notice; the deal was already done. Seven days later County Commission passed the tax hike on its first reading. Citizens were never invited to comment on the matter. Is this any way to run Hamilton County ... (click for more)

Voters May Decide In November On Whether To Eliminate City Court; Paving Fund Also Considered

Chattanooga voters in November may get to vote on whether City Court should be abolished. City Council members indicated during budget talks on Tuesday that may be an upcoming referendum question. Councilman Jerry Mitchell said he, for one, "would vote to eliminate it." However, he said the court would apparently run through 2021 when the eight-year terms of Judges Sherry ... (click for more)

Riverton Development Spurs Talk Of Riverwalk Along The Northshore

Development of the former BlueCross property at Lupton City is spurring talk of a Riverwalk on the Northshore. The City Council discussed the topic on Tuesday night in giving final approval for a Planned Unit Development for Riverton on 210 acres. Officials said there are no specific plans for a Northshore Riverwalk, but several groups are actively working to make a connection ... (click for more)

Fairyland Swimmers Upset Country Club

The Fairyland Flash had their best swim meet of the season at home Tuesday night when they beat the Country Club Wavemakers by a single point, handing the visitors their first loss of the season after four straight wins. Country Club had prevailed by a lopsided 466-322 margin just last Thursday, but the Flash was more than ready for the competition the second time around. ... (click for more)

The Ups-And-Downs Of Life In The Minor Leagues

Life as a minor league player can be tough. Few players ever get to live out their dream as a regular player at the big league level. For every player who realizes their dream, another player is forced to be released or find another organization to keep his dream alive. Recently the Lookouts have lost T.J.White, one of the most popular players in recent years. Word has come ... (click for more)