Both men are about 6 feet 4 inches tall, around 250 pounds. Both have great smiles most of the time, and tough game faces when the situation demands grit.
Both spend uncountable hours with kids, trying to help them achieve greatness just like each man has.
Both are the unquestioned leaders of their teams.
Both are the most popular and the most controversial men in their respective arenas.
Both are black, and some people today still will not accept them as leaders because of their race – yet each refuses to yield to being anything less than great.
Both figured prominently in top news stories in 2014, and likely both will again this year, and next year, too.
One man – when he throws for a touchdown in a stadium in front of roaring fans and millions on TV – makes a motion of ripping open his shirt, as if to reveal an “S” for Superman on his chest.
His name is Cam Newton. He wears the number 1 on his jersey because he is number 1, without question.
His team follows him. If he is great, they win. He is average, they lose.
The team he works for, the Carolina Panthers, extracted tens of millions of dollars from taxpayers last year to pay for stadium improvements.
Just last week, the Panthers agreed to pay Newton $21 million dollars a year – which comes out to about $57,000 a day.
Newton should make all the money he can from the rich owners of the team for playing a child’s game.
The other man – after putting people who kill and maim and harm and ruin in jail – would have to take off his bulletproof vest to show the scars from being shot while really trying to be Superman.
This is a guy who, along with his wife, put on bulletproof vests to walk in Christmas parades when gangs threatened his life.
When he is great, people go to jail. When he is average, somebody in a uniform with a wife and kids at home might die.
Under his vest, though, you would find a big “A,” not an “S.”
His name is Alex “Big A” Underwood, and as sheriff of Chester County, he makes less than $57,000 a year.
Taxpayers pay his salary. He has begged for more money – not for himself, but to hire more deputies and jail officers who make as little as $19,000 a year.
The politicians who hold Chester County’s purse strings do not throw money at Underwood the way the rich sports team owners pile cash at Newton’s feet.
They tell him to get lost.
So while Newton was getting a contract extension that will pay him $57,000 a day, Underwood was begging for more money for officers. How much of a raise would he get out of it?
“Zero,” said Underwood. “My guys come first.”
Newton has shown he is a great player and a great man. He is selfless with his time with the people of South Carolina and North Carolina, and if anybody deserves to become super rich from a child’s game during which nobody ever shoots at you, it is he.
Underwood, meanwhile, deals with death threats from gangs. He has had to deal with a son going to prison for the same drug crimes that Underwood has spent his life fighting.
Still, he does not quit.
Underwood helped bring a child from Pennsylvania to hunt and fish in December, and again in March, after a mix-up over an outdoors program. The kid thought Underwood’s program was in Chester, Pa. That came just days after rushing out at 2 a.m. with his officers to arrest dope-dealing gang members toting guns.
Underwood runs a scared straight-type program to help keep kids out of jail. He gets paid $0 for doing so. He volunteers to do it.
When Underwood asked the Chester County Council for more money to hire more deputies, dozens of his officers stood behind him. Many had worked unpaid overtime and still do. Underwood and the deputies risked political retribution for their request.
They did it anyway, because Underwood is the unquestioned leader of his team, and when the quarterback stands up to the pass rush, everybody blocks.
Newton deserves to take $21 million for playing football and smile all the way.
Underwood has a big smile of his own, but he also has a motto: “Be as nice as they let you and as mean as they make you.”
Sports media often gush over Newton as if he stopped a bullet like Superman. But it was Underwood who once was shot by a killer, and his vest stopped a bullet.
The public that does love Underwood donated more than $20,000 for bulletproof vests for his men this year. The Panthers donated none.
Underwood kept his old vest, with the hole in it from the bullet, saying his guys needed new ones more than he does.
Newton is great, but Big A is the closest thing the Carolinas have to Superman.
And he comes a lot cheaper, too.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Underwood S.C. sheriff of the year
Chester County Sheriff Alex “Big A” Underwood was selected by his peers as the S.C. Sheriff’s Association’s sheriff of the year for 2015.
Underwood was recognized for his service to the community and the nation, including his sponsoring a Pennsylvania boy on a hunting and fishing trip to Chester County after a mix-up, and his program to try to keep teens out of trouble.
The sheriff also has dealt with tough crime problems in Chester, including death threats after he arrested several gang members in connection with the shooting death of Chester City Councilman Odell Williams.
After a career as a State Law Enforcement Division agent, he was elected in 2012 as Chester County’s first black sheriff. He will be honored at a ceremony in July at the Sheriff's Association annual convention. Andrew Dys