I read with interest the Sunday story that our Joseph Person wrote about Cam Newton's marketability, which can be seen here if you missed it.
The basic point: Newton, due to his high-profile Auburn success and the fact he is an NFL quarterback, probably has more marketability upside than any Charlotte team sports figure since Larry Johnson. (We're not talking about NASCAR).
But can Cam sell?
Oh, there's no doubt he can. Having been around Newton a little bit now while in New York, watching him get drafted, he can dazzle the cameras when he wants to. He's got a presence about him that plays well on TV. And the fact that he doesn't want to dazzle folks all the time and blows some interview requests off occasionally -- including mine at one point -- is hardly going to be a hindrance to that. I think it's clear that if a company like Under Armour has already signed Newton -- despite the personal baggage and the fact that no one knows if he's going to be a good NFL pro or not -- he's extremely marketable at the moment.
But there's no doubt that marketability gets flushed down the drain pretty quickly if Newton messes up on or off the field to any great extent. In other words, stay out of strip clubs, don't Tweet anything controversial, don't anger your teammates and, above all, play well and win.
That last part is the most important -- he will have to win in Charlotte, and win a lot, to avoid being the flavor of the month and sustain that marketability. As I've written before, I thought the Panthers made the right choice in drafting Newton, given that they were somewhat backed into a corner because of who was available, what their greatest need was and the fact no other NFL team wanted to offer much in a trade.
But Newton caught a break when the lockout was "off" for about 24 hours, just in time to get that playbook. He's got that, he's got a place to work out in Florida and he has, among others, former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke as a tutor (uh-oh).
It's a start. Just the fact you can write a story about Newton's marketability and discuss it seriously -- it shows for certain that the Panthers are far more interesting than they were before he arrived.