CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton made the decision on Tuesday to post his Nov. 21, 2008 police mug shot on Instagram because that was the day in his life and football career "that made it real."
"I wasn't just in the holding cell,'' Newton said on Wednesday. "If you really look into that picture you seen green and white [color of jumpsuit]. That wasn't a polo sweater. That day it got as real as it's ever gotten in my life. To realize if I ever want what I want in life, this is the determining factor.''
Tuesday was the nine-year anniversary of Newton being arrested for stealing a laptop while he was the backup quarterback at the University of Florida. The Instagram post included a message of all Newton has been thankful for since that day he calls a turning point in his life.
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Newton's message in the Instagram post was one of thanks. This is the message without his signature font:
• "Contemplated posting this and even reluctant about it but as I think about my life and the many things I'm thankful for, I want to be an open book so many people can [hear] my testimony and learn from flaws and mistakes I made on this day 11/21/2008. I was arrested for a stolen laptop and I'm sure your asking yourself where is he going with this story but the moral of the story is this . . . on this date I thought my life and my career was over and the fact that I had shamed my family with the media coverage surrounding this situation I vowed to myself on this day (9yrs ago) that 'I will be better from this situation' what you must learn from this story is this; if you live your life listening to what other people are saying what you should do and not your own, shame on you! I can honestly say to you today that no one gave me a chance to succeed down bad in my situation and if I would have listened to those people that said I can't, who knows where I would be today. So I'm extremely thankful for God's mercy, grace and favor over my life, so if I can do it with my circumstances surely you can do it and be whatever you want to be with hard work and persistence - Love.
• "Side note: And people wonder why I play the game the way I do, act the way I act, dress the way I dress, and even live the way I live because in some people's eyes 'I'm not supposed to be here' but in my eyes I'm not going to have any regrets with the second chance God has given me.''
Newton wasn't concerned about his image and what others might say about him when he made the post.
"I've always been contemplating how to tell [my story],'' Newton told reporters. "I just said, 'You know what? Screw it.'"
Newton said he always keeps the day he was arrested marked on his calendar as a reminder for all he has accomplished since.
"I call it my 'Resurrection Day' because a lot of me changed that day for obvious reasons,'' Newton said. "It ended up being my biggest scar, in essence, being embarrassed, it ended up being my biggest star.
"I talk to kids all the time, and people all the time, that have made mistakes. We've all made mistakes.''
Newton, 28, was charged with felony counts of burglary, larceny and obstructing justice for stealing a laptop valued at $1,700 and then tossing it out of his dormitory window when officers came to investigate the theft.
He was suspended from the team while being held in jail and ultimately transferred to Blinn College for a year before transferring to Auburn, where he won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship at the end of the 2010 season.
He went on to become the first pick of the 2011 draft by the Panthers and was named the NFL MVP during the 2015 run to the Super Bowl.
"Like often times when you get to a position of power or even success, you kind of forget the bridge that brought you over . . . you kind of forget certain things that happened,'' Newton said when further explaining the decision to include the mug shot.
Newton hasn't been in trouble off the field since 2008, but he's come under scrutiny this season in the media for making light of a female reporter for asking a football question and later for walking out of a news conference.
"I was having an interesting conversation with somebody recently and we was even talking about the past couple of months of my media things, on the field and off the field,'' Newton said. "And to be honest, my response was I don't want to be the poster child of perfection.
"When you put yourself on that [pedestal] and you finally mess up, that's when it comes tumbling down. I want people to look at me and say, 'Man, look. Cam's still going strong, but look at the mistakes that he's made.' I'm still a work in progress.''
Coach Ron Rivera and many of Newton's teammates saw the Instagram post and were impressed by the quarterback's willingness to share.
"The message is it was a turning point in his life, obviously,'' Rivera said. "I think it really helped him. He could have gone one way or the other. It motivated him to do things the right way.''
Wide receiver Russell Shepard said for Newton to include the mug shot was bold, jokingly adding because "he thinks he's a pretty guy, regardless of what he has on."
"He's going to be the guy that isn't the stereotypical kind of guy,'' Shepard said. "That's what makes him, him. That's what makes his story different than most franchise quarterbacks."