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Carolina Panthers

Newton driven by will to win


When the much anticipated NFL Draft kicks off April 28, it will mark the one-year anniversary of a not-nearly-as-momentous occasion.

On April 28, 2010, Auburn announced that junior college transfer Cam Newton would be its starting quarterback for the season to come.

Now, a Heisman Trophy and BCS National Championship later, Newton is poised to possibly be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.

In rising from an unknown to far and away the draft's hottest topic, Newton appears to have somehow hit college football's version of the lottery.

Newton didn't, however, simply punch a ticket to greatness.

He punched a clock.

"I'm just going to continuously keep working on my craft," Newton said. "The biggest thing for me going into this whole transition to the NFL is preparation. I admire guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning. They're professionals at what they do.

"They might not run the fastest 40 or jump the highest, but you're not going to outwork them. They're watching film before the offensive coordinator is watching film. I respect that, the way they go about their job each and every day."

Newton is all the buzz because he does run a remarkable 40 for a quarterback of his stature - 4.56 seconds at 6-5, 248 pounds. He's also the talk because of off-the-field questions stemming from an NCAA investigation into his father's alleged solicitation of money in exchange for Newton's football services as well as a burglary charge at the University of Florida.

Newton is a fascinating figure on and off the field. What he does away from the headlines might not be as interesting but might be at least as telling.

At Blinn Junior College in Texas - his one-year stopover between Florida and Auburn - Newton impressed right away. At the end of his first offseason workout at Blinn, Newton didn't call it a day, instead inviting receivers to come out and catch passes that he planned to throw with or without them.

The same scenario developed a year later at Auburn, where early on he got in extra work by throwing in the rain.

Both seasons ended in national championship celebrations.

"I'm trying to be the best player that I can be," Newton said.

Only time will tell if Newton's best will be good enough on the NFL level. It certainly was in college.

His scintillating season at Auburn included an SEC-record 30 passing touchdowns and a school-record 20 rushing touchdowns at the school that produced running backs Bo Jackson and James Brooks. He threw just seven interceptions and didn't lose a single fumble.

It's all driven by the kind of competitive streak that has served many an NFL superstar well, and it shows up in how he's handled the multitude of personal successes and failures that have played out in the national spotlight.

"I'm a competitor. That's what I do. For anybody who knows me, they know I like to compete," Newton said. "What I did in the past is in the past. I'm all about the future. I'm trying to prepare today to make my future as best as it can be.

"I'm a confident person. 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 me?"

Seemingly few people believed in Newton a little more than a year ago - and many football followers hadn't even heard of him – yet here he is now, on the precipice of a life-changing event that football fans everywhere will witness.

"For me, it's been extremely exciting," he said. "This whole path to where I am right now has been something of a whirlwind to say the least, but at the same time this is what I signed up for.

"I'm blessed. I can't even say that enough. To know 365 days ago I was attending class at Auburn and even the Auburn fans didn't even know what they were getting at this time last year. It's a wonder what God can do in a person's life - this fast."


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