Because Cam Newton has set the NFL on fire this season, it seems silly to think back to when scouts and experts wouldn't go near the Panthers rookie quarterback's bandwagon. Blaine Gabbert more worthy of the No. 1 overall pick? That's downright laughable now.
Some of Newton's critics were so harsh that his mentor, Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, believed their reviews were racially charged. But Newton wouldn't play up the race card in an interview for next month's issue of ESPN The Magazine, instead pointing to people's bias because of past failed high-pick QBs -- although there is a catch to what he says.
"I can't sit up here and look at it like, 'Oh man, my critics are racist,' " Newton said. "I blame JaMarcus Russell and to some degree Vince Young. If you have the opportunity to make that kind of money doing something you love to do, why would you screw it up? I'm trying to be a trailblazer. If Baylor's Robert Griffin decides to come out, I want people to say 'He can be the next Cam Newton' instead of 'He's going to be the next JaMarcus Russell.' "
Now, about the catch, Newton specifically blames two black quarterbacks for his being disrespected, so maybe the criticism was racial but no so much racist (there is a difference)?
Anyhow, Newton had much more to say about his critics, specifically how he was in disbelief when, all of a sudden, they wanted to do interviews after he became the first player in NFL history to open his career with back-to-back 400-yard passing games.
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"I had people who can't throw a football telling me my mechanics were wrong," Newton said. "I had people taking shots at my character, classifying me as a thug, as a hoodlum. After Week 3 or 4, all these same people wanted an interview. I said, 'You were giving me all this crap and had so much to say about how I was going to play, and now you want to talk? No. Just sit back and watch the show, man.' "
It's been pretty impressive, too. Newton already has eclipsed Peyton Manning in passing yards for a rookie-record 3,893, while scoring 34 total touchdowns (20 passing, 14 rushing). Eagles quarterback Michael Vick recently said Newton will revolutionize the game, and that's exactly what Newton wants.
"Gone are the days of the drop-back quarterback who can only throw the ball," Newton said. "You know the new iPhone? It's faster, more powerful and smarter. It's revolutionary. Why can't the quarterback be like that? Why can't you be a big, tall, fast, quick, strong, smart, mobile quarterback who's unstoppable?"