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Cam Newton reflects on “penthouse and outhouse” with recruits

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

If nothing else, one thing about Cam Newton is certain: He's not Charles Barkley.

The likely NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and a budding star for the Carolina Panthers, Newton is more than happy to be a role model. In fact, that was the pitch that got him to fly to Orlando on late notice Thursday to speak to players at the Under Armour High School Football All-America Game about how to be successful at the next level.

Newton is uniquely qualified to provide just that advice, for a variety of reasons. One is his ever growing highlight reel, which proves he has the talent to excel at the highest level of football. Others are the Heisman Trophy and national title he won at Auburn during his single year at the Alabama school.

Yet Newton can also speak to players about the importance of staying on a narrow course for success, particularly because he learned himself about what can happen when one strays from it.

In an exclusive interview with Prep Rally, Newton spoke from Orlando -- the site of Thursday night's Under Armour Game -- about what he learned in his own prep football experience, and how he thinks the additional media scrutiny placed on all top high school prospects today makes preparation for any and all obstacles and temptations that will come all the more important.

"I just wanted to express my relationship with these guys because I've been in their seats," Newton, who has an endorsement deal with Under Armour. "If I can be some kind of inspiration or direction for someone I'm all for that.

"I'm hoping I am an ideal role model. I had to sit through [critical interviews], and I'm very blunt with them to some degree, but I'm very open with them. I hope that these kids sense that I have seen the good, the bad, the ugly and the fine. I've slept in the penthouse and the outhouse. My story to where I've gotten is a blessing, but it wasn't no golden drive."

There's little question that Newton has overcome many tribulations that could have easily ended his push toward football stardom. After a rough freshman year in which Newton threw a computer out of a window in an incident that brought with it three felony charges. The incident also preceded Newton's way out of Gainesville, with a year of stunning success at junior college powerhouse Blinn College up next, culminating in a National Junior College Athletic Association National Championship.

The rest, as they say, is history. Newton transferred to Auburn, led the Tigers to a national title while earning the Heisman Trophy in the process, and became the top pick in the subsequent NFL Draft.

"I'm just trying to put things into perspective for these players," Newton said."I was in their cleats like five years ago. Some of these guys playing in this game are 18, 17 years old. Five years from now, they need to ask 'where do you see yourself?' I'm not saying that I was living life not knowing what tomorrow would hold, but at some point in life you have to dream, and I dreamed about [success in the NFL]. And my goals and aspirations would always consistently come because I would say each day, 'Today is going to be a day to prepare myself for what I want to achieve.'"

Newton's success, combined with the recent Heisman Trophy victory of Baylor quarterback Robert Griffith III, could also herald a new era for so-called dual-threat quarterbacks at the professional level. After years of mixed success and constant question about the ability of collegiate passers who run as much as they throw, Newton shocked doubters in 2011 by emerging as one of the NFL's most versatile offensive weapons.

Now, after throwing for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushing for another 706 yards and 14 scores, Newton hopes his own exploits might help open up the quarterback position for a breed of athlete similar to himself.

"I'm not that person to say that I'm opening up for so many other people, but I'm hoping I do," Newton said. "I understand my platform in life and its up to me for the decisions that I make. Right now I feel like I'm giving back to the community and showing where football can take you. I've also seen how football can destroy someone and take them somewhere else. But if you stick to the goals you have, everything is possible."

While it remains a viable question whether Newton can maintain his early success in future NFL seasons, the quarterback said he is committed to helping future generations of top prospects regardless.

That's a fitting focus for a player who played in a different All-America game, but had to fight his way into getting any time on the field at all … with the success that one might imagine.

"In my all-star game [the Offense-Defense All-Star Game], I didn't even have the opportunity to start, but at the end of the game I was still the MVP," Newton said. "I think that just shows that no matter what cards you're dealt, you can finish with a royal flush. That's what I want these kids to know."

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