When we think of elite quarterbacks, it’s the Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Peyton Mannings who come to mind first. But within the next tier of passers–those who are on the brink of emerging as true superstars–there is one who appears poised to make the leap this season.
Cam Newton has been a household name since leading Auburn in 2010 to its first national championship in more than 50 years, solidifying himself as the No. 1 overall pick in 2011’s NFL Draft. And although he is living up to the hype, the 26-year-old still fails to get brought up when mentioning the best players in the game.
His accomplishments speak for themselves–he owns the record for the most total touchdowns by a rookie and was the first one to throw for 4,000 yards in a season. The two-time Pro Bowler has led Carolina to the NFC South crown the past two seasons, for just the fifth and sixth times in the franchise’s history.
Even off the field, Newton has reshaped his image to fans and media while emerging as one of the league’s most marketable players (who else plays Superman in commercials?). He’s opened up to the public about his maturation process and now clearly embraces his role. Under Armour signed him to the largest deal ever given to an incoming rookie and he currently serves as one of the NFL’s highest endorsers.
Plus, he has some sweet touchdown celebrations.
Despite all of the aforementioned successes, people still doubt him. Many analysts snubbed the team in this season’s predictions, citing the roster’s lack of firepower as one of the main reasons for forecasting their struggles.
But Newton, who is already 3-0 this season, hasn’t let the outside noise or, more importantly, injuries to key players phase him. The Panthers are without last season’s rookie sensation, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who tore his ACL during preseason in August. His absence leaves the offense thin at the wideout position, which now merely consists of Corey Brown, Ted Ginn Jr., and 33-year-old Jerricho Cotchery as their main threats.
In others words, it doesn’t seem like there is much to be excited about there. Yet, Newton, as before, does not give in. In Week 2’s wild, albeit sloppy win over the Texans, the fifth-year quarterback threw two touchdowns and rushed in for one other. And in addition to throwing 195 yards, he ran for 97 more, which led the team.
While Newton’s play is an obvious integral part of the team’s success, his performance on the field isn’t everything. The significance of the way any player–but especially the team’s quarterback and leader–conducts himself behind closed doors in the locker room and in public settings cannot be overstated.
There are many players who do it well, but, specifically with Cam, it comes natural. He has the swagger. He has the smile. And he has the style. One of the vital parts of this is the brand he is attached to–Under Armour.
UA are Newton are comparatively young, cool, and on the rise. Both have increased their success and popularity in recent years but neither has reached the absolute top of the food chain, at least not yet.
The upbeat personality and fresh style Newton carries will elevate his elite status beyond his ups and downs on the field. From the Under Armour “SuperCam” cleats worn in Week 2’s win to all of the memorable pairs in the past, such as the Batcleats, this quarterback is more than just a quarterback–he is one of the most prominent brand athletes in the game.
Under Armour, which beat out everyone in the race for Newton following his Heisman Trophy winning season with the Auburn Tigers, will undoubtedly continue to see success from one of their prized possession. The company, which already boasts Tom Brady and Julio Jones as part of their NFL roster, is growing quickly. As Newton continues to thrive, UA will too.
Now, with extension talks in the rearview mirror (Cam recently signed for $103.8 million over five years) he can turn his full attention back to becoming the best football has to offer–on and off the field. Due to the lack of playmakers around him and difficult division competition, some will be hesitant to acknowledge Cam’s climb. But as he has done before, Newton will provide us with some surprises, a lot of touchdowns, and just as many Superman celebrations.
Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthewhochberg