CHARLOTTE – Their physical appearance couldn’t be more different, but in many ways, quarterbacks Cam Newton and Baker Mayfield are cut from the same somewhat unconventional cloth.
This is something Tampa Bay’s Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, a former Oklahoma Sooner like Mayfield, touched on this offseason on the Dan Patrick Show.
“(Baker) puts you in the mind frame of – completely different sized human – Cam Newton,” McCoy said, “with how much swag he got and how he carries himself.”
Sure, the differences are obvious.
Mayfield was an undersized, overlooked recruit who walked on at Texas Tech. Newton was a five-star prospect with a create-a-player physique coming out of high school before signing with Florida.
But both transferred - Mayfield to Oklahoma, Newton to Auburn (after junior college stop) - and proceeded to take the college football world by storm with their dual-threat playmaking abilities.
Both took home the Heisman Trophy and became No. 1 overall draft picks. On Sunday, they will square off for the first time.
“I’m a fan of Baker,” Newton said of the rookie starter tasked with turning around the Browns. “He is a young talent who is very exuberant and enthusiastic. From what I hear from people who have been around him, he’s a cool guy.
“He’s similar to a lot of great quarterbacks that have that contagious bubble around them that makes people want to be their teammate and attracts different players to them.”
Newton used exuberance and enthusiasm to describe Mayfield – two words that perfectly describe the charismatic face of Carolina’s franchise.
“This game needs a guy like Cam Newton,” said McCoy, a longtime division rival. “I guess you could say the showmans. This game needs them.”
Mayfield, like Newton, takes the field with plenty of showmanship.
He famously, or infamously, planted an Oklahoma flag in the turf at the Horseshoe after taking down the Buckeyes. He’s also a noted trash talker who has crossed the line with his, um, taunts.
Newton also plays the game with a ton of emotion. His dances and celebrations and first-down signals sometimes rub opponents, or viewers (we remember you Tennessee mom), the wrong way.
But Newton believes the game is supposed to be fun, and that’s how he goes about playing it - unapologetically.
Mayfield is wired the same way. And most would agree that’s great for the game.
“I like it personally,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said of Mayfield’s style. “He loves his job, you can tell. He shows his emotions. He plays with a little swagger.”
Swagger is great, but in the end, any talk of NFL quarterbacks comes back to one thing: winning.
Newton hates to lose. Mayfield hates to lose.
That competitive drive makes them who they are. And what makes them so fun to watch.