What do you remember about the 1998 NFL Draft? Get ready to feel old. If you don’t remember much, it is because you were literally just getting on your feet without having someone hold you up. Music stars Shawn Mendes and Jaden Smith were not even born yet. Silento was just a few months old and probably did not even know what “Cool Whip” was, let alone that he would create a hit song called “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).” The 1998 Draft was highlighted by its first overall pick, Peyton Manning, a quarterback from the University of Tennessee. If you are 25 years or older, Manning has likely been one of your favorite NFL players. If you are younger than that, a man taken with the No. 1 pick in the star-studded 2011 NFL Draft might be your guy.
Cam Newton is not even “new school” when it comes to quarterbacks or NFL players. No quarterback in the league—right now or ever—is like him. Black, white or otherwise. No quarterback has been so absent of stoicism, whether it be when he scores or when his defense finds the end zone. Newton will run around, yell, scream, dance, “Dab on ‘em,” and do many other gestures throughout games that some fans - and even players - do not appreciate. “I’m an African-American quarterback. That may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to,” Newton said at a press conference in Charlotte last Wednesday. When his head coach, Ron Rivera, was asked about that quote, he pointed to what opponents should be scared of. “I think people should be scared of a quarterback with his skill set more than anything else. That’s who he is. He’s a tremendously gifted athlete, a terrific quarterback, a smart football player.”
Rivera added that Newton wants to be known as a great quarterback, not just a great African-American quarterback. Once again, we are in a position that sports and life seem to put us in. We have to choose sides. Not just Panthers vs. Broncos, but “old school” vs “new school,” immature vs. mature, celebrating your work vs. acting like you have been there before. Because of Newton, star cornerback Josh Norman’s trash talking and other reasons, many likely look at the Carolina Panthers as the “bad guys” because they are trying to stop Manning from winning a second Super Bowl.
Can we just look at this match- up and appreciate what we will witness on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, California? Manning vs. Newton is one of the most intriguing quarterback matchups we have ever seen for a few reasons. First, they are both successful in completely different ways—the biggest difference being Cam’s athletic size and ability to run compared to Peyton’s pres- ence throwing in the pocket and orchestrating the offense at the line of scrimmage. The second reason is that they will both have to decipher two of the top defenses in the NFL. The Broncos and Panthers both have defensive studs all over the place. Denver has Aqib Talib, Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and others. Carolina has Norman, Luke
Kuechly, hopefully a healthy Jared Allen, Roman Harper and more. This is also a passing-of-the-torch kind of game between the two signal callers, no matter what the outcome happens to be. Manning is 39 years old with his best days behind him. The face of the NFL is about to call it a career and the league’s new face at quarterback is about to emerge. Everything is in place for another classic game, so put your generational, racial and “Papa John’s” pizza bias to the side for a few hours come Super Bowl Sunday. Chances are we will won’t see a matchup like this for quite some time, so enjoy it. As true sports fans always should, just root for a classic game, because that is something we would all sign up for no matter who is involved. Sean Saint Jacques is a journalism major from Bloomingdale, N.J. He can be reached at sean.saint- jacques@ student.shu.edu.