Cam Newton: No one changed me, I'm true to my roots

Cam Newton is the presumptive NFL MVP, star attraction of Super Bowl 50 and a consistent lightning rod for both adulation and criticism.

That last part is sure to be explored in depth as we approach the NFL's championship game. On Wednesday, Newton was asked why he believes he inspires such debate.

"Nothing's pretty much changed," he replied. "They talk about maturity with me. They talk about skill set with this team. Nobody has changed. It's been the same Ted Ginn that was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. The same Jerricho Cotchery, the same Philly Brown, the same Cam Newton. Nothing's changed. The only thing that's changed is that we're winning.

"I've said it since Day 1, I'm an African-American quarterback," Newton continued. "That may scare a lot of people because they haven't seen nothing that they can compare me to. Oftentimes, it's funny, I get inspired, it makes me go out there and practice even harder because I remember when I was working out for the draft and I would see the Senior Bowl playing, I see these guys out there busting their tails, trying to get drafted, trying to have a job to provide for their family or themselves and it's like, here I am, I'm doing exactly what I want to do, how I want to do it."

Newton's contention is clear. He hasn't changed for anyone. There was no magical epiphany. The same guy Nolan Nawrocki labeled as a selfish, immature prospect with a "fake smile" is now the franchise star of one of the best teams of the decade. Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesn't think Newton is being disingenuous in any way.

"That's just who he is. He's a tremendously gifted athlete, a terrific quarterback, a smart football player," Rivera said. "I don't think he wants to be known as an African-American quarterback. I think he wants to be known as a quarterback and I think that's what drives him, to be able to transcend those boundaries, which I think is great.

"People think that you should be stoic when you play this game and I think a lot of people disagree," Rivera continued. "You should be able to come out and have fun. This is a kid's game we're playing. I know there's a lot of money involved and everything, but at the end of the day, it's about entertainment and having fun."

Having fun during games is something Newton said he'll never shy away from just because people don't always agree with how he conducts himself on the field.

"When I look in the mirror, it's me," Newton said. "Nobody changed me, nobody made me act this certain type of way, and I'm true to my roots. And it feels great, but yet people are going to say whatever they want to say.

"And if I'm in this world living for that person, oh this person gonna say this, this person gonna say that, then I can't look at myself and say I'm Cam Newton, or Cameron Newton to most people, because I'm not, because I'm living for you."

Expect more on this topic from San Francisco. Much more.

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