Newton 'turnt' about future in Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cam Newton wasn't satisfied. The 720 middle school kids that showed for his foundation event on Friday at Memorial Stadium hadn't given quite the raucous reaction he wanted, so he asked them to give it another try.

"I'm kind of seriously turnt right now,'' the Carolina Panthers quarterback told the kids.

Turnt, according to Newton and the urban dictionary, means to be excited.

Yes, I had to ask.

But I didn't have to ask if Newton was turnt about what he was trying to accomplish for his foundation or the Panthers. They kind of go hand in hand.

The first pick of the 2011 NFL draft wants to be a big part of the Charlotte community long-term just as badly as he wants to be a long-term part of the Panthers. That's why he didn't want to talk about the team officially exercising the fifth-year option on his contract on the same day he was promoting his school pride program.

He considers his commitment to being at Carolina for well beyond the 2015 season that the option guarantees just as much a given as his commitment to being an example for kids to get their education.

And Newton really is trying to be an example.

He's spending most of his free time going to classes at Auburn and online trying to complete his degree in sociology. That likely won't come until next spring because Carolina's playoff run kept him from enrolling in the courses necessary to get his diploma this year.

When he's not in school, Newton is rehabbing the left ankle that underwent surgery last month and coming to Charlotte as much as possible for Carolina's offseason program.

"I'm trying to be the best football player I can be as well as graduate so I won't be somewhat of an imposter to inspire these kids to go to school and finish and graduate if I'm not finished myself,'' Newton said.

Newton's movement was somewhat hampered by a walking boot on this day as he moved from school to school during friendly competition of activities such as tug-o-war and Hoola Hoop.

But that didn't hamper his excitement -- or his ability to dance in a way that required good hip movement but no foot movement.

"This is my time of therapy, so to speak, in a lot of different ways -- emotionally, physically, spiritually in every single sense,'' Newton said.

Sorry, couldn't find the turnt version of excitement.

"It's hectic,'' Newton said of his schedule. "It's worth it. This is what I signed up for. I can't expect it to be any other way. I'm trying to get back on the field, I'm trying to give back to my community.''

Newton has made no secret that he wants his relationship with the team and the city to be more than a pitstop on his way to something else. Those close to the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner say the fifth-year option, which guarantees Newton $14.67 million in 2015, won't ever come into play because the team will sign him to a long-term deal before that year is activated.

He is on pace to become the franchise quarterback the organization never truly had.

That's why events such as Friday are important. Newton also is the face of the franchise, and what better face to paint than that of hundreds of smiling faces.

"Having an impact on the community is one thing,'' Newton said. "But being able to show my face and actually have kids ask me questions, touch me, talk to me, things they can't do over the TV . . . ''

Let me finish. That's taking it to another level.

Newton will have to take his game to another level for the Panthers to follow their 12-4 season with another playoff run and become the first in team history to have consecutive winning seasons.

Newton is ready for that challenge despite a totally revamped receiving corps and new left tackle protecting his blind side.

But on this day his challenge was to let these kids know his grades at Auburn were coming along as good as his ankle, which he says is great. He spoke with pride of the 89 he has in one course.

The grade, he added, has no correlation to the No. 89 (Steve Smith) he lost on the field when the Panthers cut their all-time leading receiver.

If all goes according to his plans, Newton won't be able to sign up for two missing credits he'll need for graduations until after the Panthers complete another playoff run.

I'm guessing that would have him very seriously turnt.