It's not every day that a multimillionaire, multi-talented athlete with his own statue in front of the stadium returns to school to finish his degree. This semester, at Auburn at least, that has happened. Super Cam has returned.
Heisman Trophy winner and Carolina Panthers starting quarterback Cam Newton is nothing short of a 23-year-old living legend on the plains. To highlight his accomplishments thus far, in 2007 and 2008, Newton was the backup quarterback at the University of Florida to the biggest name in college football at the time, Mr. Timothy Tebow. In 2009, he won his first national championship as the starting quarterback at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas. The next year, he became a superstar in his own right, shattering nearly every major college record for his position as the starting quarterback of the Auburn Tigers football team, winning the Heisman Trophy and his second national championship along the way.
Having done everything one could possibly do in college football short of being handed a diploma, Cam made the exciting leap to the NFL, being drafted in the top spot on April 28, 2011. He received the largest shoe and apparel contract for an incoming NFL rookie in history before ever playing a second as a pro. In his first game with the Carolina Panthers, after signing a $22 million contract at the age of 22, he broke a Peyton Manning rookie record. Despite losing more games than he won that year, he was selected to play in the Pro Bowl, the annual exhibition showcase of the NFL's elite.
At the same time, Cam could be seen appearing regularly in commercials for Under Armour, Beats by Dre and Foot Locker, among others, hobnobbing with Katy Perry, on a billboard in Times Square, modeling for GQ, on an actual limited edition bottle of Gatorade, and more T-shirts and merchandise than one can shake a stick at. There's a cutout or display of him in nearly every store in the Auburn mall. He has also been immortalized in the opening lines of a Lil Wayne rap song – one of the truest tests of fame – and has found time to start his very own clothing line and his own foundation for children.
His first days back in class were utter chaos. Twitter and Facebook were on fire with reports of sightings, well-wishes, and musings as to what he was driving and where he was living. An inordinate amount of students milled around in the lobby of the Haley Center, hoping to catch a glimspe. It's a wonder he got out alive. All over campus, friends could be heard breathlessly asking each other, "Have you seen him?" There was very little doubt as to who "he" was.
“I think it’s awesome that Cam’s back at school,” said Charley Hession, president of the University Program Council. “I think people get caught up a lot of times in the business aspect of pro sports and they forget that athletes are actually people. I think he made a really good decision.”
Natasha Niemann, an Auburn junior majoring in information systems management, agrees.
“I feel that Cam Newton’s being a really good role model. Although sometimes he can be a distraction – everyone kinda freaks out when he’s here – but overall, I think it’s a good idea that he’s back at Auburn.”