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Newton's namesake has story to tell

Posted Jun 27, 2012

Editor's note: This article was originally published on Feb. 6, 2012.

In so many ways, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is a bona fide original.

In one undeniable way, he is not.

Namely, he isn't the first person named Cam Newton to play for the Panthers.

"I'm the original Cam Newton – or at least I like to think so," the lesser-known Newton said.

While Cameron Jerrell Newton took the NFL by storm after being selected No. 1 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, Cameron Lamark Newton's arrival five years ago was a much quieter affair.

A safety, Newton joined the Panthers near the end of the 2006 season, after the Atlanta Falcons terminated him from their practice squad. He then spent the entire offseason with the Panthers before being released in the final roster cutdown in 2007, effectively ending his NFL career after two seasons.

Now, however, Newton is getting more fanfare than he did during his playing days. It only adds to it that he lives in Atlanta – quarterback Cam Newton's home – where he has founded the Core Fit 360 training facility.

"Every time I have to show my ID, people always take a second look," said Newton, who is only about three inches shorter than the Panthers quarterback and believes the two have a similar facial structure.

"And when I meet somebody and tell them, ‘I'm Cam,' you wouldn't believe how often they ask, ‘You don't happen to know Cam Newton, do you?' I tell them, ‘I am Cam Newton.'"

Cases of mistaken identity are more prevalent on the Internet.

Don't even get Newton started on his Facebook page.

"Oh wow," Newton said. "I'll get messages from people I went to school with, and I'm like, ‘Come on!' They will tell me that I did a good job or get on me for messing up.

"I've got more than 200 friend requests right now just sitting there for me to confirm."

Even before the Facebook faux pas or strange in-person encounters, Newton the safety wondered if Newton the quarterback knew of him. He did, after all, play on and off for the Falcons for two years while Newton the quarterback was attending high school in Atlanta.

"I definitely remember Cam - he played on defense," the Panthers' quarterback said of his namesake. "I don't remember much about him, but I remember being really surprised seeing someone playing for the Falcons with my name.

"I followed the Falcons closely growing up because I enjoyed watching Michael Vick, so it was cool to see him on the team."

Newton the safety grew up in Bennettsville, S.C., where he still hosts the Cam Newton Football Fundamentals camp every summer. He played quarterback in addition to defensive back at Marlboro County High School and was a dual threat like his namesake, passing for 17 touchdowns and rushing for 12 as a senior.

Newton went on to play at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. – about a 45-minute drive from Panthers training camp at Wofford College – and was a three-time All-Southern Conference performer.

Signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Falcons in 2005, he played in nine games over the next two seasons, accounting for four special teams tackles.

Newton believed he might stick with the Panthers in 2007 but didn't survive the final cut. After that, as he dealt with an Achilles injury that still affects him to this day, tryouts with the Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans proved fruitless. He played with the Georgia Force of the Arena Football League in 2008, and that was the end of the line.

"I really thought I had a good chance of making it with the Panthers," Newton said. "They kept a big board of big plays throughout training camp, and I was at the top of the board. But I understand it's a business."

Business is good for Newton as a personal trainer these days. On Sundays, however, he likes to take it easy and cheer on the other Newton.

"I'm definitely a Cam Newton fan," he said. "I love his game. They could have made the playoffs last year, and next year when he really grasps the speed of the game and they build on their nucleus, they're going to be a playoff-caliber team."