Caylin Newton to schools that passed on him: ‘Look at us on ESPN right now’
Cam’s younger brother talks Howard’s big win, moving on to next game
His name is not Cam Newton’s Little Brother. It’s Caylin Newton. And now you know.
Newton, Howard’s true freshman quarterback, is coming off the biggest point-spread upset in college football history after he led the Bison to a 43-40 win over the heavily favored University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) on Sept. 2. The younger Newton threw for 140 yards, rushed for an additional 190 and scored three touchdowns. A win on Saturday against Kent State would mark the first time in NCAA history that a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team beat two Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponents in the same season, adding credibility to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and to a program that has had just one winning season since 2005.
While Newton, 19, is his own man, there are still bits of Cam you see in him on the field. He wears the same rib protectors that make him look like the Michelin Man in Howard’s all-white uniforms. He runs the read option just like Cam, choosing to barrel into defenders for extra yardage rather than safely slide and avoid contact. When the pocket collapsed against UNLV, he pump-faked and took off for a huge gain, almost as if this were Auburn against LSU from 2010. When the Rebels thought they had cut off Newton’s running lane, he lobbed a pass over the heads of defensive linemen with the flick of a wrist like Chris Paul. There’s that same Southern drawl, although he doesn’t appear to be fluent in “Cam-isms.”
“He’s Cam’s younger brother, but he wants to be known as Caylin Newton,” Howard coach Mike London said, “and we will oblige him in that manner because he’s going to do great things for this program.”
Newton didn’t speak with Cam before the game, but a week earlier the Panthers frontman told his brother to “let the game come to you.” His father, Cecil Newton Sr., reminded him that “you’re a freshman. Nobody expects the world from you. Don’t try to do too much.”
The freshman’s first collegiate start wasn’t new to him. He’s been preparing for what happened on Sept. 2 for years, back to the days of his dad making him run 5-mile courses, working harder than everyone else. Cecil Sr. preached to his sons that “if you’re just doing what everyone else is doing, you’ll have the same results.”
Despite throwing for 3,322 yards and 33 touchdowns while rushing for 1,036 yards and an additional 13 touchdowns during his senior season at Grady High School in Atlanta last year, Newton received zero offers from big-name programs. One of the knocks on him was that he was just 5-11 and 190 pounds, a toddler compared with Cam’s 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame. He and his father decided on Howard because of the chance to play football and the school’s reputation as an elite historically black university.
Newton doesn’t regret his decision. “That’s the best thing that ever happened to me, coming to Howard. If I didn’t come to Howard, none of this would have happened.”
As for the Power 5 conference schools that passed on him?
“They’re not even on my mind. So the Power 5 schools.” He sucked his teeth. “Look at us on ESPN right now. It doesn’t matter. No other school matters. It’s Howard University. We’re No. 1 in our heads.”
Newton is not lacking in the confidence department. He’s as sure of himself as his fashionista brother, Mr. Run The Table Aaron Rodgers and former NFL phenom Robert Griffin III, who once said he feels “like I’m the best quarterback in the league.”
Newton said the media has made a big deal about the absurdity of the UNLV victory — “They only see the W” — while ignoring the long nights in the weight and film rooms, the months of preparation for UNLV and only UNLV. From the moment Newton set foot on Howard’s campus, the Rebels were the only topic of discussion.
The team laughed at being 45-point underdogs and being given just a 1.2 percent chance of beating UNLV. The Bison are underdogs again this week, sitting at just a 4 percent chance to beat the Golden Flashes, according to ESPN’s Football Player Index. They used the disrespect as a rallying call. “We was either going to look at it and feel defeated or look at it for motivation,” he said.
The record-breaking outcome wasn’t as shocking as everyone else made it out to be, at least to the Bison players. “We knew we was going to beat UNLV before it happened, and it happened.
“In my mind, after beating them, I knew it was a big deal, but at the same time, I’m used to winning,” said Newton, who went 10-2 last season at Grady. “That’s what we were supposed to do.”
This was the future London envisioned when he took over the Bison program in January. As clichéd as it sounds, he wanted to change the culture of Howard football, and that isn’t limited to the field. He’s overseen an increase in the team’s grade-point average, demanded accountability and execution from his players, got rid of those who couldn’t buy into his philosophy and built a foundation that extends beyond one Saturday night in the desert.
He wants to coach men instead of just collegiate athletes.
“They’re going to be a husband and father, a CEO of a company much longer than they’re going to be a football player,” said London.
The team isn’t complacent after the biggest upset in college football history; they all know this is a long season. The first practice since the UNLV game was spirited and focused. “Our goals and our plans are much bigger than just one game. Our goals and plans are to win and be competitive in every game,” London said.
Newton added: “Nobody’s talking about UNLV no more.”
It took just five minutes after the ceremonial Gatorade bath for London to move on to Kent State. The Golden Flashes are coming off a 56-3 drubbing at the hands of defending national champion Clemson. Kent State, which has won more than six games in a season just once since 1987, allowed 665 yards from the Tigers offense last week, including 77 on the ground from first-year starting quarterback Kelly Bryant.
But if Howard wants to pull off its second upset in as many weeks, it will need to improve in three areas, London said. The team will need to commit fewer penalties (10 for 96 yards vs. UNLV), tackle better (7.5 yards allowed per rush) and improve production from a special teams group that didn’t field a single punt against UNLV.
If the team can clear up all those areas, as London’s mission statement for the program states, all things are possible. An unabashed Christian, London quotes Scriptures — Matthew 19:26: “With man, things are impossible. With God, all things are possible” and Jeremiah 29:11: ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ “ — to remind his players to believe in themselves above anything else.
And while the team played extraordinarily on Sept. 2 (449 yards of total offense, including 309 rushing), there were traces of divine intervention out there in Sin City. “There were some things that happened in this game that you look at and you’re like, you shake your head like, ‘Why?’ and then all of a sudden, ‘Why not?’ ” said London.
London said the sky’s the limit for Newton. His star freshman quarterback is competitive, quiet and humble and handled adversity better than any teenager should. After the game, the quarterback went back to his locker and his phone was blowing up from text messages (“All I saw was green and messages piled on top of each other”), but, like his coach, he quickly turned his attention to Week 2. When he boarded the plane back to Washington, D.C., it was “back to business, back to reality.” Much like his older brother’s rise from Tim Tebow’s backup to Heisman Trophy winner, Newton will only get better as time goes on.
“He’ll be as good as he wants to be,” his coach said.
Last month, Newton told The Washington Post that Howard wasn’t a football school right now, but “it will be.” After the win over UNLV, he told SportsCenter that because of all the national exposure from the game, Howard’s a football school now. London pumped the brakes a little.
“We’ve got to win some more games, but our mindset is we are a football school,” he said. “Let’s have this conversation again at the end of the season.”