Cam Newton Not Satisfied with Just Being Top Overall Pick: “I’m shooting for greatness, and that’s what I’m inspired to be.”

May 6, 2011 – 8:15 am by Michael Bean

I still think the young man has it coming for him at the NFL level, but I must admit, I’m pretty impressed with Cam Newton after listening to the very lengthy interview with him on Thursday on WFNZ in Charlotte. Is the young Heisman winner from Auburn still a bit too big for his britches? You bet he is, but I sure as heck wouldn’t want my franchise quarterback being any other way. What’s more important is the fact that Newton is a well-spoken, supremely confident yet (relatively) grounded competitor that was clearly raised well. You can’t under-estimate the value of him being raised in a solid family. So even though I personally think he might stumble along the way, I’m pleased to have been convinced finally through this interview why the Carolina Panthers were convinced that he was worthy of the No. 1 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. A very reasonable gamble for an organization that doesn’t have a whole lot to lose.

Newton joined WFNZ in Charlotte with former Panthers Frank Garcia and Mushin Muhammed to talk about what this first week of being a professional has been like since being drafted No. 1, if there was any time late last week before the lockout was reinstated to get any substantive work down with the Panthers’ coaching staff, how he got his first big exposure to the Panthers’ playbook prior to heading to Charlotte for a pre-draft visit, how his mother has paid extra close attention to all that’s been said and written about her son throughout this process, if he’s had a chance to talk to Steve Smith since being drafted, managing all the distractions that are headed his way as soon as he gets paid handsomely as the top pick in this year’s draft, his mindset about keeping pace and differentiating himself from the trio of outstanding starting QBs in the NFC South, and how he is not at all concerned about learning to deal with failure and criticism as he acclimates to the professional game.

On what his first week of being a pro has been like since being drafted with the first overall pick in this year’s draft:

“Well right now, it’s somewhat of a challenge to me, just like the calm before the whole professionalism starts. Right now I have to take ownership in working out, having to want to want to work out and want to work out and continuously learn this playbook material, so when the lockout is lifted I’ll be ahead of the game to some degree.”

If there was any time last week after being drafted but before the lockout was reinstated where he got any sort of formal introduction to the Panthers’ play book and coaching staff:

“Well my first introduction to the playbook didn’t come last week, it came during the visits and the workouts — that period of the process that was going on. I remember Carolina had made provisions for someone to bring down their playbook to Atlanta, and I had somewhat of a 24 to 48 hour window to learn it. And that was the time before I had my workout with the Carolina Panthers. So it was somewhat of a simulated, watered down version of the actual playbook. It was like two installations and one playbook, and I had to learn it then. It was fun learning it then, but after doing it with the Carolina Panthers, I had to do it with numerous teams, so to some degree I had forgotten some of the material. But after looking at it again, it came right back to me. When I met and sat down with Coach Chudzinski and Coach Shula, of course we right away got to work. But shortly thereafter, Mr. Hurney came in and stopped us to say the lockout is back on to full effect, so we couldn’t meet.”

On the love that Muhsin Muhammad has given him on the air in Charlotte:

“And that’s what I know, that’s what I do know. For me, I don’t pay attention to especially the radio stations, the internet, the newspapers, but I can tell you one person that has been tuned in and that’s my mother Jackie Newton. Man, she has been so into what everybody has been saying. And for it to affect a person, that’s what pisses me off the most — when somebody says something negative about me and I see it on my mom’s face, and I come home and I see it. But my mom has been saying, ‘you know what? It was some radio station in Charlotte and it’s been giving you so much love.’ And she doesn’t know anything about football. All she knows is that her baby Cam, which is me, all she knows is that I play football. And she says…she couldn’t pronounce your name, but she’s like ‘Moose or something Muhammed, he’s been giving you so much love.’ I said yeah, if I get drafted to the Panthers, the only thing I have to do is just go get his retirement card and throw that out the window and bring him back to the team.”

Whether he’s had a chance to talk to Steve Smith, and if so, about the topic of him taking over the leadership role of this team over time:

“I have, and the one thing I’m surely not trying to do is step on anyone’s toes. And me meeting Smitty after the kickball tournament, I understand that he’s a different cat. But at the same time, I’m intrigued by what type of standard he holds for himself. He’s a professional, and he wouldn’t be where he was at this point without dedication and hard work. So you know, my hat goes off to the Steve Smiths of the world and to all of the guys on the Carolina Panthers that have been there not only for just a couple of years, but have been there long term. I mean, my man Kalil has the Franchise Tag on him and he’s playing center — who does that? So that goes to show you what kind of determination and what type of guys and character we have on this team.”

On managing and being prepared for all the different forces pulling at him once he signs a huge contract as the No. 1 overall pick, and what his plan is for being focused on being

“Well an old wise man once said a person with money, the money just brings out what that person was before he even had money. I’m a big wisdom guy and after talking to my parents, my parents always used the slogan ‘if you’re a fool before you had money, you’re going to be a fool when you have it’. So I mean, for me — my dedication and my hard work — this was me before I even had a dime. Before the endorsement deals came, before anything, I was dedicated to trying to become the best. And now that I’m on the same playing field as the Peyton Manning’s, the Tom Brady’s, the Drew Brees’, the Matt Ryan’s — the list goes on and on with these great quarterbacks in the NFL — the pressure is on as far as to say that there’s not a team in the NFL that’s consistently good without a good quarterback. So for me to know that, that’s something I have to take my game and turn it up even more and more volumes. Because I know that whatever I’ve been doing has been good, but what I’m trying to do is not going to be what they call a ‘one hit wonder.’ This is going to be for years and years to come, and the one thing that makes a great quarterback — the one that that is universal in describing that is consistency. And that’s one thing that I’m going to have to prove to a lot of people, and first off I’m going to have to prove to myself. Because I had success in junior college, but that was one year; I had success at Auburn, but that was one year. But for people to say it — and you’re hearing it from the horse’s mouth right now — this is not only not going to be a one year thing where okay we did this and made it to the playoffs, or we did that, it’s going to be we did this year after year after year. And that’s what I’m going to be motivated to do — I strive to be great. And that’s one thing me and Mr. Richardson had touched on when we were meeting as I visited Charlotte. One thing that stuck out to me was he read his fan mail, and I can’t even remember the guy’s name but he read that letter, and in that letter it had ‘Mr. Richardson, I would just like to see you ask Cam does he want to be great, and how motivated is he to be great’. Well one of the people who is most influential as far as who I want to be inspired by is Muhammad Ali. I know that has nothing to do with football, but at the same time, the demands he put on himself to perform at a high level each match is unprecedented. And that’s what I’m trying to be — I’m shooting for greatness, and that’s what I’m inspired to be.”

What he plans to do to try to elevate his game to match the high standard set by the other NFC South quarterbacks:

“That’s a great question, and the thing that constantly goes through my mind as I work out to be the best and I challenge myself with a simple scenario — I ask myself, well, can I do the things that Drew Brees does? And for me, the competitor that I am, I would always yes. Can I do the things that Josh Freeman does? I would ask myself that and I would always say yes. But now to flip that, to keep me motivated, I ask myself now can Drew Brees do what I can do? Can Josh Freeman do the things that I can do? Can Matt Ryan do the things that I can do. So, I’m motivated to be what those guys are which is be an excellent pocket passer. I think I have the attributes to do that. And I think people are mistaken by the fact that I don’t just go from one read and run, and I’ve heard that so many times. But to be successful in the SEC, you can not be one-dimensional, and I don’t think people understand the talent level that the SEC has. But I’m patient enough to be in the pocket; I’m patient enough to go through my reads and you have to be that in this league, because if you don’t you will be exposed from excellent defensive coordinators to excellent defenders. So my challenge to myself is to become what those guys are and even better. And as I work, one thing that sticks out in my mind is how can I become a defensive coordinator’s nightmare. I want to have an answer for everything they’re throwing at me — whether they’re blitzing or having to throw to a hot receiver, whether they’re sitting back in coverage and I have to be patient in the pocket, or whether a lane opens up and I tuck it and run. You know, there’s nothing that a defense can do that I don’t have a defense for and that’s why I work to be the best.”

On if he thinks he’ll be able to handle the endless tough love and criticism that comes with being a part of an NFL team:

“Absolutely, absolutely. And that’s something that the foundation as a human that I’ve been raised upon. My father demanded so much out of his three sons that by the time I went to football practice, whatever the coaches said or did, I was already acclimated to tough coaching or tough parenting because it started at home. And I understand that I will want that for me because my mindset and my mentality is if we’re in practice and he’s expecting the best out of me and is not expecting no less than what I’m used to doing, or knowing what I can do, when I get in front of 50,000 or 80,000, it won’t matter and I’ll already have that want to say look hey, I already know what my bar is as far as where my play needs to be. And all that needs to be done now is to execute.”

Listen here to Newton with Frank & Moose on WFNZ in Charlotte

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  1. 8 Responses to “Cam Newton Not Satisfied with Just Being Top Overall Pick: “I’m shooting for greatness, and that’s what I’m inspired to be.””

  2. Mr. Bean, I just read your write-up on Cam and there is nothing in that article that says anything more than a kid who wants a chance to be great. And, you interpret that as “still a bit too big for his britches.” It must be that old plantation attitude coming out in you…You know, the Alpha Male Syndrome that feels Cam’s type should act, sound and behave a certain way so you won’t feel threatened.

    Something tells me if Blaine had said the same things Cam said you would say he was briming with confidence and that is what a franchise QB should be like. More and more of the males in the sports media are showing their true colors towards this kid.

    You simply want him to fail because in your eyes he has gotten too successful. As if his pride isn’t deserved.

    I’m amazed that such arrogance and Alpha Male attitude is acceptable in the sporting world. I guess it depends on who you direct that attitude too.

    By sandra on May 6, 2011

  3. Sandra, thanks for the comment, but you really couldn’t be more off base. I challenge you to listen to that interview and say those same things to me. If you do actually listen to the interview, you’ll be able to ‘read between the lines’ and see what I’m talking about. Though Newton comes across as very personable, intelligent and ambitious in this interview, he also flashes some troublesome arrogance if you’re not wearing Carolina-tinted glasses.

    Like I said, I was impressed by this interview. But I think he’s going to quickly discover just how hard it is to be great as a QB in the NFL. There’s only about five to seven of them in the league, and two are in his division. And after listening to him, I don’t think he quite realizes how insanely hard he’ll have to work to try to immediately catch up to Brees and Ryan.

    By Michael Bean on May 10, 2011

  4. It’s a sportswriter’s job to bring opinion and interpretation to the words. Listen to the interview. I’m as big of a Panthers fan as there is out there, and some of his bravado makes me shudder, too. Simple as that.

    By Panther Fan in GA on May 11, 2011

  5. Cam is not being too big for his britches. He is explaining what he uses to set the bar high for himself in order to prepare to perform. If he uses Drew Breese, Matt Ryan, etc. as the standard of an NFL QB, then he knows he must exceed that in order to be great. Considering he was drafted first, he HAS to set his own bar that high because MUCH will be expected of a QB who was the #1 draft pick.

    I think people are afraid that they will not have as much to criticize if Cam succeeds. People like to take pot shots at successful people. Chances are persons who do that are not that much themselves.

    You have to admit, Cam knows something. He lead two college teams to a national football championship, became the Heisman winner and became the #1 NFL draft pick in his class. It took MORE than athletic ability to do that. It also took wisdom relative to the game of football. Cam is just sharing his wisdom on how he intends to handle his game at the NFL level. Sounds like a person who is quite grounded.

    There is a lot riding on Cam’s shoulders. People are counting on him, especially the Carolina Panthers franchise, and he intends to deliver. If that is arrogance, EVERY quarterback newly drafted in the NFL needs the SAME “arrogance”.

    By Gmbenet on May 11, 2011

  6. I believe that Deon Sanders was the same way or even worse and a lot of African American males have that type of attitude from Rappers to Businessmen it is one of the ways to cope with racism and in regard to being in ones place if it makes you shutter and or looks troublesome then Im sure a lot of over confident black males have that have been successful you may have to check yourself and ask why

    By ShannonFray on May 11, 2011

  7. I really don’t care what someone says. I just want to see results on the field. I don’t know if he will or will not succeed. Time will tell. What I don’t like is an arrogant attitude. Just go out and prove your worth and you don’t need the arrogance. In the QB arena do you hear Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan spouting off? No, you just see them go out and prove they are one of the best at what they do. What QBs spouted off? Ryan Leaf did. JaMarcus Russell did. Tim Couch did. How well did that work out? If he goes on the field and proves he is good or great, then that will tell me all I need to know.

    By Garin Danner on May 12, 2011

  8. i think cam will be great you want confidence in your qb dont you!!

    Who wants a qb that thinks they cant match up with the top tier in there division i think the sense of arrogance is some what needed for a person in his position listen to all the bad things people have to say about how he wont translate to the NFL….if i were him id have a chip on my shoulder to and i would talk the exact same noise that he is talking!!…why not most people goin find something to talk about anyway it might as well be about how great i expect myself to be

    By Cole on May 13, 2011

  9. I listened to the interview. it sounded fine to me. What do you want? Do you want a guy who says, “I sure hope I do good. If it is 3rd and 10 with no time outs and the ball on the 20 and we are down by 6, then I am just going to do my best and hope it all works out. I hope I get lucky and get a first down or score, but I am not sure I will, because I cant be that confident or people will call me arrogant. Maybe the other team will jump offsides 4 times in a row and the ball will be real close to the goal line and I can hand off. whew! that will be a relief because I am not sure I can handle the pressure of a big game.”

    and come one…all the top QBs in the draft are basically saying the same thing.

    And stop with Brady and Manning…they both have always been full of “confidence” but they came into the league before the constant 24/7 news cycle and sports blogging really got going.

    did anyone see the show about Brady on ESPN? He told the Patriots owner Robert Kraft after being drafted with the 199 pick…”I will be the best decision you ever made”.

    Heck Ryan Mallet, during the draft said he would play well for the team that was “smart enough to draft him”…

    just stop with your over analyzation of everything. He is going to work hard and probably do well. it is not impossible. It has been done before…not easily, but it is actually possible to do..

    By Jake S on May 17, 2011

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