The NFL has been riddled with problems including domestic violence, concussions, performance-enhancing drugs, suspension and sideline and locker room misconduct over the past few years. The commissioner Roger Goodell hasn’t been able to get a grip on his own league. The NFL issues have become so bad that some people are convinced “NFL” is just an acronym for “Naughty For Life.” I can’t remember the last time I read a feel-good headline about the NFL, which is a serious problem.
Last week, I wrote that the Heisman Trophy committee needs to take a player’s conduct off the field into consideration when it chooses the winner of this prestigious award. I also criticized Cam Newton — who was arrested in college for stealing a laptop — for being a both a poor role model and a former Heisman winner. The lack of role models in football deeply saddens me.
Now, I am here to alter that statement and say that Newton, now a front-runner for the NFL MVP and the quarterback of the undefeated Carolina Panthers, is exactly what the NFL needs right now. Newton has developed from a college player with serious character concerns to the face of success in the NFL.
The Carolina Panthers sit No. 1 in the National Football Conference (NFC). The NFC gives Newton the platform to show his on-the-field charisma. For example, Newton takes the cliché phrase “never stop smiling” to heart. On the field, he can take the hardest hit from the biggest defensive player, and he will still have that corny smirk pasted on his face when he gets up. You can find him laughing with his teammates on the sidelines before the games, and during the games he keeps the mood light and maintains an optimistic attitude.
For some reason I will never understand, Newton acts like he won the lottery with every first down he gets. He does this by pointing toward the end zone with both hands, an indication to move the first down marker. Newton also has a tradition of rewarding a kid with the football after scoring a touchdown himself. I don’t know about you, but receiving a football from Cam Newton would be my crowning achievement as a kid.
Off the field, Newton has invested time and energy into his charity, the Cam Newton Foundation. This organization provides struggling children the means to stay healthy and receive a proper education in Atlanta and Charlotte.
In 2012, there was a commercial for NFL PLAY 60, which is a NFL-sponsored initiative that tries to get kids to maintain a healthy mind and body. The commercial featured Newton talking to a kid next to a school bus and playground. With his signature smile, Newton shared a playful encounter with the kid. This commercial continues to exemplify his pursuits on and off the field. Positive pursuits are responsible for creating the positive image the NFL needs so badly.