HUMANITY: I saw you posted on social media comments about Muhammad Ali. What is it specifically about him that you admire?
CAM NEWTON: I love everything that Muhammad Ali stood for, as well as the persona that he brought to the sport of boxing, the life he led in and out of the ring. There’s never going to be anyone like him. I’m just inspired by everything that he stood for and just his overall swagger.
HUMANITY: Do you try to bring any of that into your life?
CN: I hope so. He was just bigger than boxing. My father, coaches and mentors always say to use your influence in a positive way. He was just a kid from Kentucky who ended up impacting all our lives and humanity in general. He took his gift and empowered others; he’s very much a role model of mine.
HUMANITY: Speaking of personal heroes, who are some of yours and what is it about them that you admire?
CN: Obviously Muhammad Ali, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs—just people who have a strong sense of self and know who they are. It doesn’t matter if they’re an athlete or an engineer or the president of the United States. What I admire most is a person that stands by what they believe in and tries to impact others in a positive way.
HUMANITY: Do you think it’s important to have mentors?
CN: That’s what life is all about. It’s learning different things every single day from one another. You never know where the information is going to come from, so you need to stay open and open-minded.
HUMANITY: What have been some of the most difficult aspects of dealing with fame for you?
CN: I’m just so lucky to have a solid foundation of people around me—family, friends, loved ones that keep me grounded, whether I’m doing good things or doing the wrong thing, I have people who are able to tell me the difference between the two.
HUMANITY: What kind of effect has fame had on your public persona?
CN: I’ve learned that it’s something that I really have little to no control over, because at the end of the day the public makes up their own mind. But the media does a lot to create this facade for people. There’s numerous times where I’ve come in contact with people and they say, “I never thought you would have been this type of person.” I’m not the image that people see on TV. I love the game of football, I love being who I am, I love the people around me. I love people in general, and the fact that that’s not always portrayed, I can’t control that.
HUMANITY: It’s obvious that you take the idea of being a role model very seriously. What do you want for your young fans to take away from you on and off the field?
CN: I just want them to see the passion that I have, you know. That’s why I have my foundation—to always keep me in contact with giving back, because it’s important to me. Some people are looking up to me, some are just looking at me, but why not use the stage that God has given me for positivity?
People see things that I do, from the way I walk to the way I talk, the way I dress, the way I play and make conclusions—some people may like it, some may not, but everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. But for the people who I have the attention of, I try to make sure that they see a very passionate person that loves everything that he does in life.
HUMANITY: Let’s talk about the Cam Newton Foundation. Why was it important for you to create it?
CN: It’s extremely important for me to give back. It’s socioeconomic means that allow kids to live out their dreams. We create these different avenues to be outlets for children; we are mainly in Charlotte and Atlanta right now, but hopefully one day soon we can expand and make it nationwide.
HUMANITY: How did it come about and what’s the overall purpose?
CN: My father, he’s a preacher, and has always instilled a sense of knowing that it’s a priority to give back to my community. The goal is to just try and create opportunities for kids and encourage them to live out their dreams, to motivate them to get out and get active and just overall wellness—to motivate them in any way possible.
HUMANITY: What have been the foundation’s highlights so far?
CN: One major highlight is a year-end Thanksgiving event. We feed the entire community, as many people as possible. This past year we had 900 people show up. It’s just great to see. We’ve had Christmas with Cam, where we reach out to the local hospitals and we have a school-pride day for 25 to 35 schools around the Mecklenburg County School District in Charlotte. The kids have to keep a certain GPA as well as low absences and no behavioral issues. If they meet those requirements, they are welcome to join.
HUMANITY: What have been its greatest challenges so far?
CN: Well, there haven’t been many challenges yet, but this is something that’s pretty new for me. We just want to impact kids in any way possible, push kids to have goals and to dream big.
HUMANITY: When you excel at something, there’s always going to be those who have negative things to say. Does it bother you or is it just something that you’ve come to accept?
CAM NEWTON: That’s something that I just came to accept. I don’t live my life for other people’s judgments. I live my life for being at peace and at one with myself, knowing that every life lesson I will learn from. Whether it’s good, whether it’s bad, it hopefully makes me a better person.
HUMANITY: It seems that nowadays with social media, people want access to celebrities 24/7. How do you manage that?
CN: I don’t let social media use me; I use social media. I’m able to show who I really am outside of football and hopefully impact and empower others.
HUMANITY: Social media’s a platform that you control. What’s the message that you want to put out to the world?
CN: I want people to see more than a football player. I think I try to be a good person; I just happen to play football.
HUMANITY: Do you think it’s more difficult today for celebrities because of social media?
CN: Of course. It puts you in the line of fire, from what you say to who you hang out. You really need to keep a certain level of protection over your personal life in order for you to keep some level of privacy.
HUMANITY: From what I understand, you and your parents are very close. How did they prepare you for success in life, both on and off the field?
CN: I’m extremely blessed to have had two parents at home growing up, as well as having numerous people in my corner that knew right from wrong—people who are in their right mind who had my best interest at hand. But a lot of that comes from having a strong mother and father that always kept their eyes on me.
HUMANITY: What do you think the biggest misconception about you out there is?
CN: I could care less. Misconceptions happen every single day. Being misunderstood, that’s life. I don’t know—I guess it doesn’t bother me enough to care.
HUMANITY: What about your legacy in your community?
CN: I think it’s important for me to always have a voice in my community, to be a person that can be touched, and I say touched because oftentimes it’s easy to donate money, easy to support this or support that, but harder to actually donate time. I just always want to be present.
HUMANITY: And what about your legacy overall?
CN: I just want to be a catalyst that started something big. With me being a new father, I realize that it’s more important than I ever thought because it’s going to impact my son. I just want to be someone that, no matter what I go through, good or bad, I always learn from it and better myself.
HUMANITY: Has your perspective changed since you’ve had a son?
CN: Having a child, it changes your whole perspective on life. You thought you loved before, until you’re in the hospital room and you hear him crying for the first time. It makes you appreciate life even more.
HUMANITY: Has fatherhood made you want to do things differently in any way?
CN: I think it makes me focus on the things that I do now and have more purpose behind it. I know that for the rest of my life somebody’s going to be looking at me all the time, so something as simple as being very complete in everything that you do.
HUMANITY: Last question—do you have a mantra or any words that you try to live by?
CN: Yes, a simple one: Just do unto others as you want them to do unto you. I don’t necessarily believe in karma, but if you’re a good person good things will happen.
HUMANITY: Thank you, Cam.
CN: Thank you. I appreciate it.