Cam Newton is having a brilliant rookie season with the Panthers, and says any criticism delivered his way in the run-up to the draft were driven more by the failures of quarterbacks like JaMarcus Russell and Vince Young, not because of race.
In an interview for next month’s ESPN The Magazine, Newton told writer Dave Fleming that he doesn’t think there was any racism directed at him.
“I can't sit up here and look at it like, ‘Oh man, my critics are racist.’ I blame JaMarcus Russell and to some degree Vince Young,” he said, referring to the former Oakland quarterback and Titans passer, both of whom are black. “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.'"
Newton said he was taken aback at all the early criticism, and then how many of those critics wanted to interview him after his impressive early-season performances.
"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.' "
Newton has already broken Peyton Manning’s rookie record for most passing yards; he’s at 3,893 heading into the regular season finale. He has 34 total touchdowns – 20 passing and 14 rushing.
"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?"