Cam Newton answers hard questions
After the year he's had, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton is ready for anything.
In the fall, the NCAA ruled that Newton's father tried to get Mississippi State to pay for him to play there. There was no evidence Newton knew what his father did or that Auburn was involved, so he was allowed to keep playing.
Newton, in his only season at Auburn, completed 185 of 280 passes for 2,854 yards and 30 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. He also ran for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns.
His Tigers won the national title, and he won the Heisman. On Monday, he received the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's top quarterback. And he's projected by many to be among the top 10 picks in April's NFL draft.
Page 2 caught up with Newton in Atlanta as he was heading home from the airport after getting his award Monday. We had 10 minutes and 10 questions:
1. What have the past few months been like for you, after all that mess involving your father?
It's definitely made me stronger. And that's an understatement. I am closer to a lot of people. Teammates, first off. Coaches. Friends and family. People showed their true identity around me, especially when they came under scrutiny. I've been blessed to have so many good people in my life. Did all this in the fall make me stronger? Of course it did. I look back now and look at all those hard circumstances and I know I can surpass anything.
2. Was there ever a point during the eligibility controversy last season when you thought you might not play again?
There was no doubt in my mind. I have my faith, my religion. I leave it all up to him. I'm a firm believer in that prayer does pay off. There are a lot of people in my corner and they all were praying for my success. They wanted me to be healthy and be able to play football, the sport that I love.
3. So you're going to work out completely at the NFL combine this week. Why?
Me and my father were talking. We all agreed. If you can't perform in front of 80 people to show what kind of power you have in your arm, how can you perform in front of 80,000 screaming fans? This is something I thrived upon. When your best is required, there is no doubt in my mind that I can perform. I just want to go out there and show those doubters.
4. What do you hope to accomplish at the NFL combine?
I'm looking for something that I can leave the combine with that people didn't expect to see me in a positive way. I want them to look up from what they're reading and see how differently Cam Newton really is. I want to show them that I can play and I can talk. They will see me the whole weekend and I want to make a great impression.
5. How successful will you be in the NFL?
I love using this analogy: It doesn't matter how fundamentally sound a person you may be, but at the end of the game, it only matters whether you won that football game. I'm very competitive. As a whole, people don't like losers. For me to win a football game, that will show how successful I am. Preparation is easy. It's all about winning that football game.
6. Does it matter where you're drafted?
I just said something to my mom about this. My parents always stress that hard work pays off. Even if I don't make it to the players going to New York, I'm going to get picked in this year's NFL draft. It's not a one-year fluke at Auburn for me. This shows how hard I've been working my whole life. I've always dreamed as a little kid to become a professional athlete.
7. You've just signed with Under Armour to market their clothing. That will be announced Wednesday. That was big at Auburn. Is that why you did it?
Under Armour is filled with great people. It wasn't a given I was going to sign with them. A lot of people were out there speculating. But that company is filled with excellent people and I wanted to join. I love wearing the product.
8. Speaking of Auburn, what's left in the cupboard after the national championship season?
I'm hoping for the best for that program. They still have a lot of talent. As far as who is going to replace me, it's really a question of who can win football games. That's all that really matters. If it's Barrett [Trotter] or the other guys, it's all about winning.
9. What would you say to the Alabama fan who is charged with poisoning those oak trees at Toomer's Corner?
I would just say, "Why?" I'd wonder why he would tarnish something that means so much to many people. You don't understand unless you're from that area how important that corner is to people. That's something that's been a part of Auburn longer than people can remember. After a win, it's just not a win without going to the Toomer's Corner. You're there with complete strangers celebrating. You're all bonding.
10. Your name came up in that story because of your jersey being taped to the Bear Bryant statue. How do you feel about that?
That's the life I signed up for. I take the good with the bad. I take the cold with the gold.
Lynn Hoppes is Senior Director of Page 2 and Commentary for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.