Patriots

Bedard: Not sure Boston’s seen an athlete with as much locker room power as Cam Newton

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This being the (Sports) Hub of the Universe and all, Boston has seen its fair share of dominating athletes with national profiles before.

Bill Russell.
Ted Williams.
Bobby Orr.
Larry Bird.
David Ortiz.
Pedro Martinez.
Kevin Garnett.

And, of course, Tom Brady.

Those are just a few of the names. There are several more in the running.

Those players are all great champions. Hall of Famers. Nationally recognized. Some changed the games they played, at least certainly here in Boston.

But I'm not sure this city, this New England region, has ever seen an athlete with the impact in a locker room as Cam Newton.

I'm not saying Newton belongs on that list in terms of accomplishments. Not even close. Heck, he might not even get off the bench here with the Patriots and be gone in a year.

But that doesn't change the fact that when Newton walks into that Patriots locker room, he brings with him an enormous presence that few carry in any sport.

Brady is the GOAT, but I never got the sense other players were in awe of him — and that's a credit to him because he stayed so accessible and relatable to his younger teammates, unlike other aging stars.

With Newton, it's just different.

https://twitter.com/gregolsen88/status/1277403416877305856?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1277403416877305856%7Ctwgr%5E&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nfl.com%2Fnews%2Fplayers-react-to-cam-newton-joining-bill-belichick-patriots

https://twitter.com/CMC_22/status/1277424770217279493?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1277424770217279493%7Ctwgr%5E&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nfl.com%2Fnews%2Fplayers-react-to-cam-newton-joining-bill-belichick-patriots

He won a national championship and Heisman Trophy at Auburn. No. 1 overall draft pick. NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. NFL MVP. There are the postgame podium outfits, and outlandish quotes ("I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon.’’). The national criticisms for this and that. Superman. He has been the face of national and international campaigns for Under Armor, Gatorade and Beats.

I've witnessed it in person over the years. Newton just has this presence that is rare. He's like some sort of combination of Taye Diggs (looks), Rob Gronkowski (physique) and Michael Jordan (cachet within the sport).

Newton has movie-star looks. He's physically imposing — at about 6-5 and 260 pounds Newton is built more like a defensive end than a quarterback. And his physique looks like it was chiseled out of a rock by Michelangelo, which is a big difference between him and Brady when it comes to presence.

For all of these reasons and more — especially his embrace of individuality and celebrity in a sport where conformity is demanded — Newton is almost looked at with reverence among Black football players. I mean, here's just some of the reaction on Twitter following the news he's signing with the Patriots:

https://twitter.com/obj/status/1277439318043189248?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1277439318043189248%7Ctwgr%5E&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nfl.com%2Fnews%2Fplayers-react-to-cam-newton-joining-bill-belichick-patriots

https://twitter.com/Melvingordon25/status/1277391751595130881?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1277391751595130881%7Ctwgr%5E&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nfl.com%2Fnews%2Fplayers-react-to-cam-newton-joining-bill-belichick-patriots

https://twitter.com/camjordan94/status/1277399624815464449?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1277399624815464449%7Ctwgr%5E&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nfl.com%2Fnews%2Fplayers-react-to-cam-newton-joining-bill-belichick-patriots

https://twitter.com/Prez/status/1277396459546120193?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1277396459546120193%7Ctwgr%5E&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nfl.com%2Fnews%2Fplayers-react-to-cam-newton-joining-bill-belichick-patriots

https://twitter.com/dh_simba7/status/1277397072006782977?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1277397072006782977%7Ctwgr%5E&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nfl.com%2Fnews%2Fplayers-react-to-cam-newton-joining-bill-belichick-patriots

https://twitter.com/SweetFeet_White/status/1277392836833542150?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1277392836833542150%7Ctwgr%5E&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nfl.com%2Fnews%2Fplayers-react-to-cam-newton-joining-bill-belichick-patriots

https://twitter.com/McCourtyTwins/status/1277392342572568576?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1277392342572568576%7Ctwgr%5E&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nfl.com%2Fnews%2Fplayers-react-to-cam-newton-joining-bill-belichick-patriots

https://twitter.com/RSherman_25/status/1277469865041788929?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1277469865041788929%7Ctwgr%5E&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nfl.com%2Fnews%2Fplayers-react-to-cam-newton-joining-bill-belichick-patriots

And this is from Joejuan Williams, a second-year Patriots cornerback:

Williams' reaction is what I'm talking about. You could understand the attention from Newton's contemporaries among 30-something NFL players. But Williams is 22 and from Nashville with no connection to Newton. That's the sway Newton brings into Patriots' the locker room.

Who else garners that kind of reaction? I can't think of many across all sports, and especially in football. Newton basically picked up where Michael Vick faltered, and took it to a whole other level with the MVP and playing in a Super Bowl — while embracing social media and messages for a millennial generation. I don't think it's a stretch to call Newton — in terms of impact and respect; not accomplishments obviously — the Michael Jordan of football because of his connection to celebrity and embrace of brand.

So for that reason, I don't think New England has ever seen a Black athlete with this much power. Who else is in the running? Could this be the limited risk in this deal, similar to Randy Moss' end in New England?