The rubber bands that he wears on his wrist are there to remind him to forget the last play and focus in on the next one. Any time he throws an incomplete pass or a play doesn’t turn out quite the way he anticipated, he pops those rubber bands on his wrist. That little pop snaps him back into reality, letting him know that the only thing he can control is his demeanor for the next play.
“Not every play is going to turn out perfectly,” said Newton, the 6-6, 225-pound quarterback from Atlanta West Lake, rated four stars by Scout.com. “If you’re too busy thinking about what just happened, then you can’t focus in on the next play. The past is the past and you have to forget it. You throw an interception, you throw an incompletion, you make a bad play … those things happen sometime but you can’t dwell on them or you’ll probably make another one just like it.”
That ability to focus, to make the next play the most important, is one of the reasons that Newton has become one of the hot quarterback properties on the recruiting circuit this summer. He’s been to several camps and most recently, he lit it up at Friday Night Lights in Gainesville.
At the Friday Night Lights camp, Newton showed the kind of mobility and speed that have had the college scouts interested since he burst on the scene as a big time prospect last year. Everybody knew he’s got the good feet. What wowed everybody in attendance was the lasers he was throwing. Whether on the move throwing short or throwing deep in a simulated pocket, nearly every throw was on the numbers.
His performance caught the attention of NFL Hall of Famer Chris Carter who was a special guest at Friday Night Lights.
“I look at Cameron Newton and I see potentially another Daunte Culpepper,” said Carter. “He’s as good a quarterback prospect as I’ve seen this summer.”
Newton threw for 2,500-plus yards as a junior and he ran for another 638 yards. He accounted for 32 touchdowns, 23 through the air, nine on the ground. Those outstanding numbers figure to improve after a summer of hard work. He’s put in the hours, whether in the weight room or on the practice field for voluntary workouts. It is important to him to become an extraordinary leader as a senior.
All the hard work and extra effort has helped him become a more disciplined player. Discipline, he says, is what separates good players from great players and good teams from great teams.
“You have to be disciplined,” said Newton, whose dad Cecil played college football at Savannah State. “That’s where it all starts. You can’t take a day off. You can’t even take a play off. As a leader, your team looks to you to have your head in the game on every play. As a team, you can have all the talent in the world but if you aren’t disciplined, you won’t win and winning is the only thing that really counts.
“Our team has all the talent that we need to win a state championship. The sky’s the limit but we have to be disciplined with everybody doing their assignments on every play, finishing blocks, making the right throw to the right receiver, following throw on every throw, running backs running hard and hitting the right hole … all those things add up. It’s the disciplined team that wins the game.”
Staying disciplined for a quarterback means having a very short memory. The successful quarterback is the one that forgets the last play, especially if the last play didn’t work or if there was a turnover. Newton understands that his teammates are going to react to his demeanor so he tries to keep it positive and focused.
“When you throw an interception you can’t beat yourself up, you have to stay composed,” he said. “You can’t do anything about the past. It’s always about the future. My teammates look to me and they need to see a confident leader that has his head straight. If one of my linemen misses a block I’ve got to be firm but supportive with him. I let him know that we’re depending on him to get his job done and I try to encourage him. If he needs more than that, I take him aside when we’re on the sideline and then I let him have it but always with some encouragement. The last thing you want is for someone to be on your bad side. Quarterbacks end up with broken legs because they chewed out a lineman in front of all his teammates.”
Newton and his Westlake teammates have spent the summer working to improve and get stronger but also working hard to improve their personal relationships. They have one goal in mind and that’s a state championship season that ends in the Georgia Dome in December. To reach that goal, they understand that it’s all about teamwork, discipline and becoming a band of brothers both on and off the field.
Now that two-a-days have begun for Westlake’s season, Newton is seeing the results first hand of what his teammates tried to achieve during the summer.
“The best thing that’s happened is the way everybody is bonding on our team,” he said. “The offensive line, the running backs, the wide receivers … everybody on the team is clicking and that’s the first step. It’s all about everybody doing their best this year for the team and doing it as a team. If you have individuals that only care about how many scholarship offers they have, then you can go 0-15 but if everybody understands that it’s all about us working together and doing our best, then the sky’s the limit. There’s no reason we can’t win a state championship if we all work together and stay together as a team.”
Newton has scholarship offers from just about every team in the Southeastern Conference and most of the teams in the ACC. He’s trying to take a level-headed approach to recruiting, trying to give everybody a fair shake.
“Just about everybody’s even but I have to admit there is one that really stands out for me and that’s Florida,” he said. “If you want a number one, then Florida’s my number one and everybody else is even. I would love to play for Coach Urban Meyer. Some coaches just get right down to it and you can relate to them and that’s Coach Meyer. I could see myself playing for Florida. I could see myself playing for Coach Meyer.”
What separates Meyer from the other coaches he’s talked to is the way he pushes players to their limits yet encouraging them all the way.
“If you do well, he’s going to congratulate you but then he’s going to challenge you to do better,” Newton said. “I like that he pushes you to a new level. He’ll ride you if he has to but he’ll always encourage you every step of the way. That’s the kind of coach that everybody wants to play for. If he thinks you can be a great player, then he’ll do everything in his power to help you get there.”
He’s going to take his official visits during football season because he plans to enroll at his college of choice in January, hopefully after the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
“I’m looking to get that extra edge, that little head start by getting in an extra spring practice,” he said. “I’ll be enrolling in January. I’m on track to graduate in December.”
Newton has a 2.8 GPA that he says will be a 3.0 by the time December rolls around.
“It’s important for me to get it up over 3.0,” he said. “I’m doing it for me but I’m doing it for my parents, too. That will help get me ready for college, too, by working hard on my grades.”