INDIANAPOLIS -- Before taking a single question during his long-awaited appearance before the media at the NFL scouting combine, Cam Newton attempted to put out yet another fire.
In a prepared statement, the former Auburn quarterback tried to clarify a recent comment in which he described himself as "not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon."
Newton noticed the wave of negative reaction and felt he was misunderstood. The Heisman Trophy winner spent his first minute at the podium on Saturday explaining where his focus will be in the future, and later said that he was at fault for being unclear.
"First and foremost, I understand that my obligation is to be the best possible football player I can be," he said. "I know and believe that."
His comment drew such a reaction because some say his swagger teeters on the edge of pure arrogance. In roughly 12 minutes at the podium, he referred to himself in the third person three times. When asked if some mistake his confidence for cockiness, he said: "I'm not sure, but I'm a confident person, and it was instilled in myself at an early age to believe in myself."
Controversy, it seems, follows Newton.
The NCAA ruled in December that Newton was unaware of the pay-for-play scheme involving his father, Cecil, and the owner of a scouting service. Cecil Newton and Kenny Rogers -- a former Mississippi State player who worked for an agent -- sought money for the quarterback to play for the Bulldogs.
Newton said the scrutiny helped the father and son's relationship.
"The relationship with my father was one that was already good before this whole adversity thing, came up with the NCAA, and this whole NCAA thing swarmed around my family and everybody that was affiliated with me, and it just brought me and my father closer together."
Newton won the Heisman and a national championship before declaring himself eligible for the NFL draft. He said his father has been in his corner the whole way.
"My father is just like any other father that wants the best for his son," he said. "He wants to see his son succeed in every way possible."
Newton dealt with controversy even before his Auburn days. He was arrested while attending Florida in November 2008 for having a stolen laptop. The charges were later dropped when he completed a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders.
After being peppered with questions about his missteps, Newton tried to redirect the focus.
"I'm letting you know right now, what I did in the past is in the past," he said. "My sole focus is to perform at this year's combine. I'm not going to entertain anything that happened in my past."
None of the issues seem to have scared off the Carolina Panthers, who have the No. 1 pick and have made their interest in Newton clear.
"As far as the skill set goes, the kid's got tremendous physical talent," Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. "He's got natural size and ability to run. He's got a tremendous arm, and he's got a pretty good pocket presence already. I think he's well on his way."
Rivera said Newton has similar tools to many of the league's successful young quarterbacks.
"You look at the types of quarterbacks that have been drafted, you look at the size of these guys, they're all big men," Rivera said. "You look at Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco. Cam's got those types of physical attributes. He might be the better athlete of all of them. He's got a great arm, and he's a winner."
Newton still feels he needs to prove himself. He will participate in all drills at the combine, an unusual step for a highly regarded quarterback.
"My biggest thing right now is to prepare for the NFL," he said. "I know it's going to be a challenging transition. I felt as if I wanted to do something at the combine. I wanted to come in and compete."
Newton has been working at a feverish pace. He worked out for the media in early February in San Diego, and after the combine, he'll participate in his pro day on March 8.
"It's been a whirlwind to say the least, but at the same time, it's what I signed up for," he said.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press