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Cam Newton, celebrity and pro football

The NFL Draft has become the premier offseason event for professional football. The draft gets pushed from the top by big league networks tapping into fan excitement and a desire to stay connected with the sport. The explosion of fan-centric sites and the changing media landscape bring interest up from the grassroots level. With all that interest, celebrity is foisted upon the prospects, and consistent with the TMZ-nature of entertainment reporting, every last detail of a player's life on the field and off becomes fodder for media and fans. No player in this year's draft embodies the celebrity/entertainment nature of the draft than Auburn QB Cam Newton, who stoked those fires with his infamous "entertainer" remarks. Today, the lines of draft analysis and celebrity journalism blurred even further by Nolan Nawrocki's write-up of Cam Newton in Pro Football Weekly's draft preview. 

Nawrocki mulls Newton's on-field promise and the holes in his resume but extends his analysis with a lengthy screed about Newton's personality. Tom Curran from Comcast Sports has a preview of the print draft magazine with the juicy quotes:

"Very disingenuous -- has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup," writes Nawrocki.

He continued, "Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them. Has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law -- does not command respect from teammates and will always struggle to win a locker room . . . Lacks accountability, focus and trustworthiness -- is not punctual, seeks shortcuts and sets a bad example. Immature and has had issues with authority. Not dependable."

I'm not really sure how Nowrocki would know all that info about Newton, other than the media circus the Auburn QB inspires, but he puts it out there for the world's consumption. To me, it sure sounds like the issue here is Newton's celebrity. 

Doubtlessly, there's a legitimate question here as to whether or not even more spotlight would negatively impact Newton's ability to succeed in the NFL. Some players have been able to fulfill both roles; some struggle with it. That's probably where draft analysis should start and end when it comes to questions like this. Teams do their own judging on how a player's character impact his game. They should since it's their investment. 

At any rate, it's a good reminder that Newton was right; football players are entertainers, just like actors or musicians. The media presence surrounding the game demands players have a certain ability to project themselves well in the media. Imagine if Ryan Mallett had that some of that ability.

Having seen the Cam Newton show in person at the Combine, I can attest to just what kind of celebrity presence the guy has; it was a very similar experience to watching Jack Nicholson enter an event along time ago when I was schlepping prints at a film festival. Not every player needs to carry themselves the same way to be successful, e.g. Sam Bradford, but it can also be a real asset to a player and his team if that ability is channeled constructively. Obviously, Nowrocki misses that point, but so do most other draft watchers.