By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Cam Newton's NFL influence extends beyond his MVP award, record-breaking 2015 season, and redefinition of the quarterback position in the early 2010's. When Newton takes the field on Sunday, his top receiver and opposing quarterback will both be players he helped reach the league.
Much has been made in recent weeks about Jakobi Meyers' participation in Newton's '7-on-7' high school football tournament in Georgia.
“Where I’m from, we all looked up to Cam. It was like a super hero, honestly,” Meyers told Patriots All-Access last week. “It was a surreal moment to meet someone me and my friends looked up to and now that I play with him, it’s just life is funny, you know?”
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is from the Atlanta area, just like Newton and Meyers. In fact, he held most of the Georgia state high school passing records until Trevor Lawrence broke them a few years ago.
Watson attended Newton's camp as well, and has been in regular contact with him since.
"Cam is a big brother to me. A mentor. I wouldn’t even say mentor. Just brother," Watson told the media earlier this week. "Just life experiences, life advice, football advice. He’s just always been there for me since I was in high school...So me and him have a great relationship.”
"I just love the the player, the person that he's grown to be - he's growing to be. His stock is still ascending," Newton told the media when asked about Watson on Thursday. "Just like Jakobi, Deshaun on was on the Foundation team, and we knew then he was a star. How easy the ball came off his hands. The ball - he had so much arm talent at such a young age."
His 7-on-7 camp and tournament is something Newton has discussed multiple times this year, and something he takes pride in.
"I am not going to sit up here and proclaim I am the most thuggish, ruggish quarterback in the NFL, but a lot of people where I’m from don’t have the opportunities that I have now," Newton said on Thursday. "I want to always give back to the community."
In his developmental camps and tournaments, Newton is able to give back with the game he loves.
"They all just need an opportunity and I can just remember growing up, nobody really did that for me, back in Atlanta," he explained. "Now, I just try and make it as accessible as possible for me to get a person who may not have a ride, or whatever their circumstances may be, just to give them an opportunity to play the game of football which I love, and I know a lot of people who do love."
Newton doesn't just lend his name to the program either - he takes part as a coach.
???????? Cam Newton 7v7 Team Tryouts 2019 | Atlanta (GA) Under The Radar Sports Media : The Best in High School and Youth Football from Texas to Florida, Georgia t...
Newton's foundations teams are changing lives, but also the landscape of the NFL. "There are Jakobi Meyers’, there are Justin Fields', there are Deshaun Watson’s, there are George Pickens’, Bo Nix’s, the list goes on, Jadon Haselwoods," Newton listed for the media. "All those are five-star, future NFL starts and are NFL stars now. They all just need an opportunity."
Watson is one of the most dominant quarterbacks in the league. Ohio State's Justin Fields is also an alumni, and is expected to be the second quarterback off the board in the next NFL Draft. Then there's Auburn's Bo Nix, who was the top quarterback recruit in the country in 2019. He'll first be draft eligible in 2022.
It's not just quarterbacks either. George Pickens is a sophomore receiver at Georgia. He was a five-star recruit and played as a freshman. Jadon Haselwoods was the top receiver in the Class of 2019. He's currently at Oklahoma.
He's helped defensive players too. Georgia safety Richard LeCounte is expected to be a day two pick in next year's draft.
Through football, Newton has made an impact on many on and off the field - both in Atlanta where he is from, and Carolina where he played the first decade of his career. He says he hopes to do the same in New England, once the circumstances of the pandemic allow.
"My job as a humanitarian, my job as a human is to give back to the world as much as I can and use my platform in a positive way," Newton said on Thursday. "That’s what we’ve done with my foundation in Atlanta and Charlotte and plan on doing it in Boston when this COVID is lifted to find the needs of the community and use the game of football to enhance it as much as possible.”
For more on this week's Patriots-Texans matchup, check out the Patriots Preview Podcast below:
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].