NFL

Cam Newton: Football is top priority

Our experts debate if Cam Newton could really be a Cowboy?
Our experts debate if Cam Newton could really be a Cowboy?
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Nancy Gay

Nancy Gay is the Senior NFL Editor at FOXSports.com. She has been covering the NFL and other major sports for more than two decades. The first female member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee, Nancy also is an Associated Press All-Pro selector. She has covered 20 Super Bowls. Follow her on Twitter @nancygay.

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INDIANAPOLIS

Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton firmly believes he is the best collegiate athlete in America. On Saturday, the charismatic Auburn quarterback had an opportunity to explain the firestorm he ignited by referring to himself “not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon,” when discussing his multi-year endorsement deal with Under Amour gear.

Before a standing-room only media crowd at the NFL Scouting Combine, Newton — who did refer to himself several times in the third person as “Cam” or “Cam Newton” — opened with a prepared statement.

He cleared his throat to read it.

“First and foremost, I understand that my obligation is to be the best possible football player that I can be. I know and believe that,” Newton read, emphasizing random words to make his message more powerful. “The recent comments were made during the announcement of my new endorsement partnership.

“I was making the point that I want to be the best possible ambassador for (Under Armour), just like I want to be the best possible ambassador for whatever team I am lucky enough to play for.

“I’m excited to compete this week, and you will see me doing everything possible to become the best player I can possibly be.”

Newton then stopped reading and looked into the audience.

“First and foremost, I’m blessed to be here,” he said. “I couldn’t be in a better place than I am right now.”

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With that, Newton — who said he will participate in all Combine drills as well as his Auburn Pro Day on March 8 — opened it up for questions:

• What has been the response to his “entertainer and icon” label he anointed upon himself during an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King?

“Well, for me, seeing how it did happen, I felt it was somewhat misunderstood,” Newton said of the comment. “It was partly my mistake in not making myself clear, and that was my fault.”

• What have the last few months been like for him, winning a national championship with Auburn and becoming one of the most talked-about athletes in the country?

“For me, the path to where I am right now has been something of a whirlwind, to say the least. But at the same time, this has been what I signed up for,” Newton said. “I’m blessed. I can’t even say that enough. To know that I’m sitting in front of you guys, talking to you guys and to know that, 365 days ago, right now I was attending class at Auburn.

“Even the Auburn fans didn’t even know what they were getting this time last year. So it’s a wonder what God can do for a person’s life, this fast.”

• Do people mistake his confidence for cockiness?

“You know, I’m not sure. But you know, I am a confident person. And it was instilled in me at a young age to believe in myself, first and foremost. Because if I don’t believe in myself, who do I expect to believe in myself?”

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• What will be the most difficult part of the transition from the college game to the NFL, playing under center or some other thing?

“For me, I’m just going to continue to keep working at my craft, to become the best quarterback possible during this transition. Obviously, everybody knows that Cam has been in a spread offense and I have been trying to work as much as possible, trying to be fluid and coming from under center with the three-step game, the five-step and also the seven-step drop.

“And me and George (quarterbacks coach George Whitfield Jr.) have been working day and night, in the film room, on the chalkboard and on the field, throwing reps.”

• What round does he expect to go?

“Like I said, that’s not my sole focus. I’m trying to be the best player I can be.”

Then there was a very pointed question: Given the lengthy investigation by the NCAA regarding his checkered past at the University of Florida, the finding that his father tried to get Mississippi State to pay for him to play football there (Newton himself was not found to be complicit, which allowed him to remain on the field at Auburn) and the ongoing probe surrounding that scandal, is Newton concerned that he must prove something to NFL teams about his character, that football is his No. 1 priority?

“Well, football IS my No. 1 priority,” Newton said. “I want to make that perfectly clear.

“I’m just going to go into whatever organization that I’m picked up, I’m going to be lucky. I’m going to be happy, because this is a dream that I’ve always envisioned myself doing. And I’ll be lucky. But at the same time, this is something that I’ve been looking forward to.”

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