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Cam Newton in command at combine

2/26/2011

INDIANAPOLIS -- Auburn quarterback Cam Newton handled himself like a star Saturday afternoon in his NFL scouting combine news conference.

Newton began with a prepared statement to clarify a recent controversial comment, smoothly and directly answered several uncomfortable questions, and didn't for a moment contradict the idea he can be a franchise quarterback -- maybe for the Buffalo Bills with the third selection in April's draft.

"Football is my No. 1 priority," Newton said. "I want to make that perfectly clear. I'm just going to go into whatever organization that I'm picked up and I'm going to be lucky. I'm going to be happy. This is a dream that I've always envisioned myself doing."

Too much shouldn't be made of a 13-minute question-and-answer session. Let's not stamp him the most charismatic quarterback since Tom Brady.

But Newton's performance certainly was more impressive than Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett's earlier in the afternoon behind the same Lucas Oil Stadium lectern.

I dare say Newton came off as the most compelling personality among this year's quarterbacks class.

Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and Washington's Jake Locker were polished and pleasant, but they also were schooled to speak without saying anything, and didn't face the kinds of questions Newton did.

Newton was in command and made no excuses. His voice had an edge to it when responding to questions about his father, the NCAA investigation, allegations he stole a laptop computer while at the University of Florida, and why he'll throw Sunday at the combine and again at his pro day March 8.

On his father possibly being an overbearing influence on him: "The question has been asked [by NFL teams]. My answer is 'My father is just like any other father that wants the best for his son.' He wants to see his son succeed in every way possible."

On what he learned from the investigation: "The whole process with the NCAA has been me facing adversity."

On the laptop accusations, which Newton has addressed previously: "Sir, I'm here right now. What I did in the past is in the past. My sole focus is to perform at this year's combine. I'm not going to entertain anything that happened in my past."

On throwing while other quarterbacks have chosen not to: "I'm a competitor. That's what I do. For anybody to know me, knows that I like to compete. I'll participate in all the activities."

Newton's prepared statement addressed the uproar that followed recent comment to Sports Illustrated writer Peter King. Newton said "I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon.''

Every word and action gets dissected while front offices explore whether to invest a high first-round draft choice and tens of millions of dollars on the face of the franchise. Newton, probably under orders from agent Bus Cook, tried to put the "entertainer and icon" remark into perspective.

Newton explained he was speaking to King because of an endorsement deal with Under Armour and "was making a point that I wanted to be the best possible ambassador for them just I like I want to be the best possible ambassador for whatever team I'm lucky to play for."

After that 35 second statement, he went off-script the rest of the way.

"It was somewhat misunderstood," Newton said unscripted. "It was partly my mistake of not making myself clear, and that was my fault."

Newton later underscored he knows he's not bigger than the game.

"The NFL doesn't owe anybody nothing," Newton said. "With Cam Newton or without, the NFL will be. I'm just honored to have this opportunity."