One moment a player can accomplish the unthinkable -- the next, allow arrogance to stymie his success. Jeffri Chadiha explores the allure and aggravation that accompanies supreme confidence.
By Jeffri Chadiha | Published December 15, 2015
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman snatched the ball in midair, gathered his feet as he landed, then darted toward the end zone. He already had tired of hearing Cam Newton's constant trash-talking on that sweltering training-camp day, so it was equally satisfying to see Carolina's star charging toward him. Newton lowered his shoulders in order to slow Norman's progress. Norman went a step further -- he cut inside to escape Newton while driving a stiff-arm right into the quarterback's chest. After that, it was on.
The scuffle that ensued rippled throughout the NFL. Still photos of the fight captured Norman and Newton clutching at each other's helmets and jerseys. The initial response by many outsiders was that it was crazy for a franchise player to be grappling with a defender who was fairly unknown at the time. Anybody who knows anything about the concept of swag -- and both Newton and Norman are undisputed experts on the subject -- understands exactly why that incident turned heated so quickly.
Both Norman and Newton had the same idea at that tense moment: I'm the baddest dude on this field, and nobody's going to one-up me.
"We had some choice words for each other, but greatness came out of that," Norman said recently. "We both saw that neither of us wanted to lose and we would give anything to win. It [spread] throughout the team, and we continued to grow off of that and move on. But it wasn't anything serious to the point where we had to sit down in the general manager's office and be like 'OK, let's have a talk.' "
No deep conversation was needed because swag doesn't require an explanation. It's essentially confidence on steroids, the type of intangible that takes players -- and teams -- to a whole new level. The word is actually short for swagger, which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as "arrogant or conceitedly self-assured behavior." The players who display swag on a daily basis simply know what it is as soon as it enters the room.
When asked about swag, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown said that he views it "as being confident and having that second level of energy and determination to know you can get it done." New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said "swagger is not so much how you dress, but how you carry yourself and present yourself to other people." Former Pro Bowl wide receiver Torry Holt believes that swagger comes in all shapes and sizes.
"We called it confidence," said Holt, who amassed 920 receptions over 11 NFL seasons. "Nowadays it's called swag, but you see it in a lot of guys in our game. [Cardinals cornerback] Patrick Peterson has a tremendous amount of swag. I think [Lions wide receiver] Calvin Johnson has his own swag in his own humble way. [Packers quarterback] Aaron Rodgers -- he has his swag. Swagger is just a guy that has a lot of confidence, and you can see it in the way he walks, you can see it in the way he talks and, more importantly, you can see it in the way he plays."