Cam Newton’s younger brother Caylin will play football at Howard University His father says strength of campus culture and academics played into the decision
In true signal-caller fashion, Caylin Newton opted to call his own play — and break his own news, on Twitter, no less.
— Caylin Newton (@NewtonCaylin) January 5, 2017
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound quarterback threw for 3,322 yards with 33 touchdowns and eight interceptions this past season playing for Grady High School in Atlanta. He ran for 1,036 yards on 92 carries with 13 touchdowns. His highlights show the escapability and open-field running reminiscent of his much bigger big bro, Cam, who dabs for the Carolina Panthers.
But those numbers and that last name weren’t enough to get the younger Newton a slew of Division I offers. While his brother’s alma mater Auburn showed some interest, no official offer came. His only other offers were from Hampton University, Kentucky Christian University, Texas Southern University and Savannah State University.
“The [recruiting] process started before the season,” former Howard coach Gary Harrell told The Undefeated. “Caylin’s father [Cecil Newton Sr.] wanted something different for him. He could have gone anywhere in the country, and they could have paid his tuition anywhere. But they wanted an HBCU [historically black college or university], and they figured if it’s going to be an HBCU, why not the school that is considered to be the highest of all HBCUs.”
Having been down the recruitment road before with Cam, who was drafted as the first overall pick by the Panthers in the 2011 NFL draft, the Newtons wanted no parts of a drawn-out process.
“We’re happy to be Bisons,” Cecil Newton Sr. told The Undefeated. “Howard was a great institution before we got here. We’re all on board – Cam, my oldest son, Cecil Jr., the whole family. We’re all in this together.”
Football alone was not the only factor that made this decision easy, Newton Sr. noted. “It was a combination of campus culture, strong academics, as well as an opportunity to play football,” said Newton Sr., an alumnus of Savannah State. He said Caylin is undecided on his major but hopes to enroll in Howard’s School of Business.
Try as they might, it won’t be easy to ignore comparisons to his big brother. But the Newtons have been dealing with that chatter for years.
“Obviously, Cam is 6-5 and Caylin is 5-11, but the skill sets are quite similar. Caylin can do everything Cam can do, maybe even a tad better, in high school,” Newton Sr. said. “But we wanted a very simplified process for him to choose a school, and we felt Caylin needed a more enriched college experience that’s going to catapult him beyond football.”
Harrell, a 1994 Howard graduate, was a starter for the Bison team that went undefeated in 1993, winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship. It was Harrell who worked directly with the Newton family, guiding the process in partnership with Howard athletic director Kery Davis, all the while tempering expectations.
“We were transparent on both sides,” Harrell said. “I had to tell him that if his son wanted to play quarterback, we had two young quarterbacks on the team, Jason Collins and Kalen Johnson, who have college experience, so we didn’t really have intentions on recruiting a quarterback for 2017.”
But this situation with Caylin was different, Harrell continued.
“This was not just about filling a depth chart. This was about getting a good-quality athlete who maybe could play quarterback or another position — but I wanted to give him an opportunity to compete for the position and go from there.”
Those decisions will now be made by Harrell’s successor. Numerous news outlets, including Howard’s social channels and The Washington Post , have reported that Mike London, Maryland football’s associate head coach, will succeed Harrell, whose tenure lasted six seasons, with 18 wins and 27 losses. Howard has not yet confirmed the London hire.
Jay Walker, the standard by which all Howard quarterbacks are judged, likes the Newton-Howard marriage for a number of reasons. “This is a tremendous opportunity for both the university and for Caylin,” said Walker, an ESPN college football analyst who led Howard to the program’s first playoff berth in 1993 — Howard’s only undefeated season in team history.
“You get out of Howard what you put into it,” Walker continued. “He’ll be better prepared for a lot of the distractions at Howard than a normal kid coming off the streets who hasn’t had to deal with being under a microscope and the scrutiny that goes with it.
“He’s playing in the world’s most famous HBCU, in the world’s most powerful city … so if he takes care of his business and does the right thing, there’s no better HBCU to play quarterback at than at Howard.”
None of that is guaranteed, of course. Not even Newton’s roster spot. That’s all up to London, who spent six seasons coaching at the FCS level at the University of Richmond, including as head coach for two seasons beginning in 2008, when the Spiders won a national championship. He finished with a record of 27-46 in five seasons at the University of Virginia and holds a career head coaching record of 51-51.
There’s also nowhere to go but up for Howard, which finished last season with a 2-9 record and was outscored 383-208.
Said Newton Sr.: “We’re not coming in expecting Caylin to come in here to move mountains. We’re just coming in to try to fit into the program. We just want to blend right in.”