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Carolina Panthers

Newton takes center stage


INDIANAPOLIS – Nearly everyone with a pigskin pulse has something to say about Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, but Saturday afternoon at the NFL Scouting Combine, those same football followers couldn't wait to hear what Newton would say about himself.

In the most anticipated and best attended news conference of the event, Newton acknowledged his issues of the past but laid out a clear vision for his future.

"I'm going to keep working on my craft to become the best quarterback possible," Newton said. "I'm motivated to try to be great."

Debate will rage until the NFL draft in two months about whether the Auburn quarterback has potential for greatness worthy of the No. 1 overall pick, which the Carolina Panthers just happen to hold.

Carolina head coach Ron Rivera has been upfront about the importance of identifying a franchise quarterback, and he spoke highly of Newton when asked about him numerous times during a news conference Thursday at the combine.

There's no question about Newton's athletic ability, yet still there are questions aplenty.

On the field, Newton dazzled last season with 30 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns against just seven interceptions and no fumbles, for the national champion Tigers.

Off the field, though, Newton made even more headlines. In the midst of his record-setting season, allegations that his father solicited money in exchange for his son's football services put Newton's eligibility in jeopardy. The NCAA eventually ruled that Newton had no knowledge of his father's wrongdoing.

Newton, however, made a mistake all his own when he was charged with stealing a laptop computer while attending the University of Florida in 2008. The charges were dropped when he completed a pre-trail intervention program, but they contributed to his decision to transfer to a junior college in Texas.

"Everybody has a learning process that they go through, and for me, that process happened three years ago," Newton said. "The mistakes I made at Florida, and the trials and tribulations I went through at Blinn College have made me the person that I am today. I can say that with my chin high to the sky.

"I'm not going to entertain anything that happened in the past. I'm all about the future."

Before moving forward, Newton opened his news conference by reading a prepared statement – something almost never done at the NFL Scouting Combine - to clear the air about a quote attributed to him earlier in the week that he viewed himself as an "entertainer" and "icon."

"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 said. "The recent comments were made during an announcement on my new endorsement partnership. I was making the point that I want to be the best possible ambassador for them, just like I want to be the best possible ambassador for whatever team I am lucky enough to play for."

Over the next two months, Newton will work to prove to NFL teams like the Panthers that the physical tools that clicked in a spread offense will translate in a pro-style offense. He'll also try to prove that teams need not worry about any character issues, something that NFL teams investigate even when a prospect hasn't had any known incidents.

Opinions among fans and front offices will remain split and spirited, and amidst that it's easy to forget that virtually no one had an opinion about Newton a year ago because nobody knew who he was.

Newton, however, hasn't forgetten that.

"It's been extremely exciting, the path to where I am right now," he said. "It's been somewhat 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 say that enough. To know that I'm talking to you guys, and 365 days ago I was attending classes at Auburn, and even the Auburn fans didn't know what they were getting this time last year. It's a wonder what God can do in a person's life – this fast."


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