By USA TODAY High School Sports | May 31, 2017 8:38 am
SNELLVILLE, Ga. — Cam Newton was jumping up and down. He was hollering, chanting a call-and-response to get his guys fired up and irk the other side.
No, Newton wasn’t on an NFL field. He was on the sideline coaching a high school 7-on-7 football team– made up of four and five-star athletes– during the Memorial Day Classic, a tournament his foundation puts on, at Shiloh High School.
His team, the C1N All-Stars (Black), was made up of some of the top recruits in the state of Georgia, and they went up against other top athletes from across the country.
It’s intense. This isn’t your everyday summer tournament. These guys play to win. But Newton’s players are also there to soak up anything and everything the 2015 NFL MVP, Super Bowl runner-up and Carolina Panthers quarterback has to say.
And one of the first lessons he teaches, a course something Newton is famous for, swagger.
“He brings a swagger and the spirit,” Derrick Canteen from Grovetown High School said. “That’s how he gets ready for his games so he brings it here. He brings the hype.
“He says bring the swagger. Play with swag,” he continued. “You have to have your own swagger. So he brings that; he installs that in you.”
There’s no dabbing. These guys come up with their own celebrations that would surely stir up conversations in the NFL. One player did a front-flip after coming up with an interception.
Newton displays his signature swagger on the sideline. He jumps up and down, running the length of the sideline yelling, “Get off the field,” after his defense makes a stop. During warm-ups, he participates like a receiver, running routes and catching passes from 5-star quarterback prospects.
If you’re on Cam’s team, you’re running NFL plays and he’s treating you the same way he treats the likes of Greg Olson, Kelvin Benjamin or Jonathan Stewart.
It helps the players get over the “Wow, it’s Cam Newton” effect pretty quickly.
“He has more experience than any other coach out here,” Demond Ellison from Cherokee High School said. “There are a lot of new things going on in the NFL. He teaches us a lot of stuff, new things that other coaches can’t give.”
Almost all of Newton’s players see him as an older brother. After all, he’s wasn’t all that different than his players at that age. He went to Westlake High School in Atlanta. He started at the collegiate level at the University of Florida, but an arrest for allegedly stealing a laptop and reports of academic dishonestly forced him out and to a junior college. From there, he made his way back to the SEC and attended Auburn. But even there, he couldn’t escape controversy with stories about his father requesting Newton get paid to play and other eligibility concerns.
“He shares his testimony,” Canteen said. “He tells us it’s had a humbling affect on him and just because you have the name brand of schools looking at you, just stay humble.”
Newton opens up about his past struggles, and he encourages his players to ask him anything.
“How do you go through all the bad comments people say about you? How do you go through that stuff?” Ellison once asked Newton. “And he just said, ‘Don’t focus on that stuff. Focus on being you. Focus on being great, getting better everyday.’
“He teaches us everything. He’s hard on us like an older brother, he gives us great advice and everything.”
He barks at them.
“Tighten up!” he says, and, “Fix your demeanor! No one’s feeling sorry for you!”
He coaches them.
“If you’re not confident, then shoot.”
And of course, teaches them about swagger.
“When you bring that swag, everybody wants to bring on that swag. Like his swag, versus other people’s swag, there’s no comparison,” Ellison said. “It’s just him.”