Newton’s Heisman speech shows the value of life

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 8, 2011

When Auburn University Quarterback Cameron Newton won the Heisman Trophy, it was the first time athletes from the same state had won the most prestigious award in college football in consecutive years. University of Alabama Running Back Mark Ingram won the Heisman the year before.

Named in memory of Coach John Heisman, an innovator of the game, the bronze statue of a football player is presented to the winner who is selected by sports journalists from across the country as the most outstanding college football player in the United States. A second trophy is awarded to the school the player represents.

Like the previous 75 Heisman winners, Cam Newton accepted his award and gave a special thanks to his teammates, saying “without them, I wouldn’t be here getting this recognition.”  He spoke directly to his coaches, thanking them for giving him a chance.

This past year Cameron Newton made headlines both on and off the field – his accomplishments on the field competed for media attention with investigations into allegations about his dad’s communications with another school, as well as Cam’s own mistakes at a previous college.

Regardless of your allegiance to your favorite football team, Cam Newton’s statistics confirm that he’s an outstanding player. Newton is the first player in Southeastern Conference history to have thrown for at least 2,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards in the same season. He led the SEC in rushing with 1,409 yards this season.

Cameron Newton’s story is not just about his athletic ability, it’s a story of redemption. It’s about what he learned from his own mistakes and shortcomings. As he told his coaches in his Heisman acceptance speech, “Thank you for giving me a chance. Thank you for everything you’ve done.”

According to news reports, when Newton came to Auburn, he wanted to make the most out of his second chance to play the game he loved. He met with Wrights Mill Road Elementary School Principal Lynda Tremaine and began mentoring students on Monday afternoons. Newton gives his time to helping the entire school, but works with four fifth grade boys individually.

Principal Tremaine told a TV news reporter, “He talks with the boys about the importance of good behavior and doing the right thing. The teachers said they cannot believe the difference in their whole attitude.”

Newton’s story is not just about athletic ability or redemption. It’s also about realization, as evidenced by his comment to the Associated Press about winning the Heisman.  “It’s a dream come true for me… I am a living testimony that anything is possible.”

In his Heisman speech, Cam Newton acknowledged his parents.  “I also would like to thank my beautiful mother, Jackie Newton, and my father…This is not an award that, in my opinion, has been won by my play this year. This is an award that was won when I came out your womb. Thank you for everything you did for me.”

Cameron Newton’s story is not just about the realization of a dream, it’s also about the realization that every life is precious, and every life has potential. Each of us is made in the image of God, who knew us before we were born. We’re “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139).

Your story, my story and Cam’s story remind me of the saying, “Who you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.”