This post is part of a continuing series in which we break down 13 2011 NFL Draft prospects - our Baker's Dozen - that should interest the Buffalo Bills. Keep up to date on our Baker's Dozen series here.
You knew this was coming. Cam Newton's past is checkered, his present is highly contentious, and his future is considered boom-or-bust. After the jump, you'll find as much as we can legitimately put together about Newton, the person.
The Laptop Incident
While at Florida, where he started his college career as a backup to Tim Tebow, Newton was arrested on felony charges of burglary, larceny and obstruction of justice. He allegedly stole another student's laptop, and as campus police were checking with the computer's owner to match serial numbers (after they'd already seen the computer physically in the room), Newton also allegedly threw the laptop from his third-story window. The laptop was recovered, Newton was arrested and charged, and the matter was eventually resolved when Newton completed a pre-trial diversion program. READ MORE
The Cheating Report
Last year, while Newton was leading Auburn to a national championship, a report surfaced, citing a source, that Newton left Florida after the Fall 2008 semester because he was facing expulsion for three separate incidents of cheating academically. Allegedly, Newton was caught cheating once, then put his name on another student's paper in a second incident. When he was caught, he later allegedly turned in a paper that was purchased on the Internet. According to the source in the report, Newton was set to meet with Florida's Student Conduct Committee, facing suspension or expulsion, but circumvented it by leaving Florida and transferring to Blinn Junior College. This report refuted earlier proclamations from Newton and his father, Cecil, that Newton had transferred out of Florida after Tim Tebow decided to return to school for his senior season. READ MORE
The Pay-For-Play Report
Also during Auburn's championship run, a report emerged alleging that Newton and his father had sought payment of, or in excess of, $180,000 when Division I clubs were recruiting him as the nation's No. 1 JUCO recruit coming out of Blinn. The allegations came from recruiters at Mississippi State, who, according to the source behind the report, claim that both Newton and his father had multiple conversations with school officials about the payment requirement. One source even mentions that Newton contacted a Mississippi State recruiter after officially choosing Auburn to express regret over the fact that his father had chosen Auburn because of the monetary commitment.
Mississippi State informed the SEC of this recruiting violation in January, but when the SEC requested more detailed information, the school did not provide it until July, just two months prior to the start of the 2010 college football season. Auburn University and the NCAA both investigated the allegations; Auburn left Newton eligible for all 14 of its football games, while the NCAA didn't impose any sanctions, either (or has not yet). Both Newton and his father have steadfastly denied these allegations, with the player going so far as to say that if the allegations were true, he had no knowledge of the events. It should also be noted that the report cites Oklahoma as an institution that recruited Newton during this time frame, and quotes head coach Bob Stoops as saying that he sensed no foul play during the process. READ MORE
There are other, smaller scandals surrounding Newton, as well. First, there has been a report that in a two-year time frame at Florida, Newton accumulated around a dozen different minor traffic tickets. Then there was Nolan Nawrocki's highly-publicized scouting report that went to great lengths to attack Newton's football character and leadership traits within the team setting - a report that most talent evaluators, including Bills GM Buddy Nix, flatly ignored after Nawrocki admitted he's never met Newton.
In February, prior to the NFL Scouting Combine, Sports Illustrated's Peter King tweeted this stand-alone comment from his interview with Newton: "I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon." Many quickly accused King of unfairly representing Newton with the tweet, but King would later provide the context for the tweet. In short: Newton had just signed a lucrative endorsement deal with Under Armour, and the question King asked was in regard to said deal.
That covers all of the big stuff. There's a lot of it. Hopefully, it's presented here in a way that is fair and unbiased, and allows you to draw your own conclusions about what Newton has done, and been through, over the past three years or so. For the few of you that may have been left on the outside, wondering why Newton was such a hotly-debated prospect, this should clear it up.