Brianna Nargiso, Howard University News Service
Washington, D.C.– The children’s eyes grew bigger and bigger as he walked closer and closer to their table. Pretending not to notice their stares, he sat between them as they slowly managed to squeeze closer to him and gazed in awe. “He’s a pretty big guy,” whispered one of the students while another nodded. “He looks important,” a third added. “Maybe he’s famous!”
Jonah, one of the most talkative of the group, finally stood up on behalf of his classmates and blurted, “Who are you?” with a confused look that turned into a grin.
Smirking, the guest panned the room to see all the anxious kindergarteners waiting for his answer. Dramatically, he responded “Well, who are you?” in a high-pitched voice, matching the voices of the children with a smile so contagious that the children began laughing hysterically. Then they all went around the room introducing themselves to the six foot stranger who sat among them.
Following a few more giggles and jokes, he finally answered, “My name is Caylin!”
“And you play football!” Jonah added. The other children whispered, shaking their heads in agreement as they noticed both the football in his hand and the wording on his hoodie. “HOW-ARD Foot-ball,” read one girl. With a confused expression, Caylin pretended not to understand Jonah’s statement or hear the group of students reading his hoodie. His fake confusion puzzled the students as he covered up the lettering on his clothing obviously blowing his cover.
This provoked them to come up to his chair and point to the word “football” on his hoodie while half of the class scurried to the place in the classroom he had attempted to hide his football when walking in. Amazed by their vigilance and humor he laughed with them, exchanged jokes and answered all of their extraneous questions about football and who he was.
Later taking the class out to the playground, Caylin began to play catch with the students, running through mock plays with them. He even pretend to run a ball through the defense the students created. They were overwhelmed with giggles and excitement. He also taught them key pointers in how to catch a football and how to throw one.
Only 5 and 6 years old, the students clung onto Caylin’s presence and seemed to thrive from his patience and humility. As a group of children enrolled in a public school with limited recreational funds, this meant the world to them but little did they know, it also meant everything to Caylin.
“My Own Man; My Own Person”
Caylin is often portrayed only as the quarterback at Howard University or the younger brother of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. However, he transcends his athleticism and his last name. His accolades didn’t make the cut when introducing himself to the children at Cleveland Elementary School. Instead, he spoke humbly as a human being, one with flaws and talents, likes and dislikes, and he encouraged the children to see themselves in the same way.
“I’m my own man, my own person, and I’m building my own legacy,” Caylin’s typical response when bombarded with questions solely connecting him to his brother’s accomplishments.
By not succumbing to what is expected of him because of who he is, Caylin has created a path for himself rooted in faith, family and community and he intends to continue to live by these principles.
“A lot of people may think he’s stuck up or arrogant because of who his brother is, but he works hard like everybody else,” says teammate Kyle Anthony. “He gives whatever he has left.”
This is true in many aspects of Caylin’s life. Not only does he give whatever he has to the sport and his team, he also gives all he has emotionally and spiritually to his family while faithfully sowing seeds into his community, similar to the time he spent with the students at Cleveland.
“He’s genuine, trustworthy, hardworking, dependable and funny” notes Caylin’s childhood friend, Isiah Washington.
By being family-oriented, faith-driven and community-minded, Caylin keeps himself grounded in the important things such as striving to make an impact on others. One way he says he works to ensure that he remains level-headed is by surrounding himself with the love of his family and close friends.
Faith and Family
As the youngest of three children, Caylin grew up loving football. From watching his brothers, Cecil Newton Jr. and Cameron Newton, play collegiate football and eventually go on to play professional football, Caylin was inspired. Their dedication to bettering themselves as athletes and evolving adults served as a daily reminder to work hard and embrace growth in whatever form it comes.
At an early age, Caylin learned the importance of family. It was made clear that love and unity would be the foundation of his home life — whether it was in the form of group prayer, living room conversations, phone calls, church outings, family gatherings or sporting events.
“We’re just all so close — my brothers, my mom’s side of the family and my dad’s side of the family,” Caylin says. “We’re really just one big happy family.”
Speaking to Caylin’s wisdom, his eldest brother Cecil believes that Caylin’s mental age surpasses his chronological age. He has even taken to Instagram to say, “I’m blessed with two brothers, but the youngest is actually the oldest.”
Aside from having a family so tight knit, faith has always been at the center of everything for Caylin. This is especially true since his father, Cecil Newton Sr., also a former NFL athlete, serves as pastor of Holy Zion Ministries in Newnan, Georgia. Caylin also notes that because his father’s church is “a family church,” his surroundings only helped further his faith.
“As a pastor’s son, I grew up in an old school church and we went to church … a lot, Bible study, revivals, you name it and we were there. ”
Caylin recalls the power of prayer as it was emphasized early on, as his grandmother ensured that everyone in the house prayed. The importance of a growing prayer life and spiritual connection with God was reinforced in almost every aspect of his life through the elders of the church and everyone else around him.
“Faith and church were always there. I can’t even remember when I learned about God or how to pray,” Caylin shared. “That’s how invested our family was and still is.”
Being immersed in his faith and building a strong relationship with God through prayer, Caylin always had an outlet. The combination of faith and family instilled the importance of love, compassion, empathy and generosity — traits Caylin highly values.
“He’s a leader, someone who trusts and believes in God wholeheartedly, and he’s someone teammates look up to,” Anthony notes.
As a teenager, Caylin learned how important it was to be the voice of reason and love when there is none. Caylin exhibited his ability to be the difference by being the football point of contact for his highschool within their chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Motivated to make sure the organization’s chapter at his school was not dormant Caylin became the student spiritual leader to better connect his teammates with faith. This has helped propel him to be active in building community through sports and faith.
He started by working alongside his brothers in church charity outreach missions throughout Georgia and with Cam’s foundation in Atlanta. The Cam Newton Foundation sponsors several holiday events in which Caylin has made a conscious effort to take a leadership role in, like Cam’s Thanksgiving Jam, a program providing Thanksgiving meals to over 1,000 kids, Kicking it with Cam, a celebrity kickball tournament created to raise money for the foundation’s charity initiatives and Cam’s 7×7 tournaments.
By participating in these initiatives, Caylin was able to see the role he could play in changing the world and using his life to exude wisdom and encouragement to those in most need of it.
As a college student in Washington, D.C., he has since volunteered at the Special Olympics, The Federal Worker Food Drive, schools and recreational centers. He has also been a keynote speaker at several events across the District and at Howard University.
Caylin has not only tried to bridge community between differing people, but between teams and organizations as well. The biggest example of this would be his progression in building meaningful relationships on and off the field with his teammates. Even with the loss of head coach Mike London and offensive coordinator Brennan Marion in 2018 to the College of William and Mary, Caylin remained consistent in ensuring Howard’s football team remained closer than ever. This was crucial for many players as the uncertainty of their future at Howard grew.
The quarterback has been instrumental in creating both a safe space for the Howard Bison football team and a family environment. He tries to ensure that all the players on the team feel part of a community and truly begin to understand and support one another.
“Caylin has made the team more a family by planning team bonding sessions whether it be riding bikes downtown, watching a movie or playing cards,” says teammate Demontre Buckson. “He’s a leader.”
He takes the initiative to relate and bond to every teammate individually and authentically. “We bonded over the first three seasons of ‘Game of Thrones,” Buckson added.
Anthony feels Caylin respects his opinions and says their bond is based on “honesty.”
Goals On and Off the Field
As he enters his senior year at Howard University, Caylin is focused on working out, eating right and doing all he can to be the best he can for this upcoming 2019-20 football season.
Howard is not known as a pipeline football team, although it has had three recent, notable alumni in the NFL: Antoine Bethea (2006), Ron Bartell (2005) and Tracy White (2003). It is not typically a prospective option for high school and collegiate athletes interested in reaching the dreams Caylin shares — going pro.
“It was my dad’s decision to settle on Howard,” Caylin says. “So that’s what we did and don’t regret any of it.”
He shares how pivotal faith has been throughout his entire football career. “I was never the biggest or the fastest,” Caylin says. “Faith and hard work got me to where I am, and I’m going to keep going.”
With his optimism, faith and work ethic, the odds began to seem a lot less tumultuous.
The football program at Howard is important to Caylin, but it is just as important to be in a place where he is expected to achieve great things and encouraged to follow through with impact.
If Caylin is unable to achieve his impact through a football career, he expressed his readiness to enter the field of sports marketing. He is a sports management major who has experience in marketing for Under Armour and D.C. United. With Under Armor, Caylin focused on assisting marketing teams in understanding the value and history within historically black colleges and universities. He also worked to shed light on the importance of capitalizing on the opportunity to attract a more diverse consumer base. With DC United, the Washington DC professional soccer team, Caylin has been shadowing marketing managers while understanding the dynamics in which DC United appeals to its fan and customer base. Caylin has also expressed a strong interest in philanthropy.
“My goal is to be able to give back and help people.”
Instead of playing into the narrative expected of him, he continues to walk in his own light. He describes himself as just a man trying to work with the talents given to him, but making sure he is fulfilling his purpose before his position.
He is reminded of this in a letter from Jonah, the kindergarten leader at Cleveland Elementary School, thanking him for coming to play football with him and his friends. And Jonah remembered Caylin initially not by his title but by his character.
“Caylin was nice, and he was funny,” Jonah recalled. “Oh and he played football, too!”
Brianna Nargiso is a senior majoring in journalism at Howard University.