Cam Newton is retired from football. He lives outside Atlanta and is a personal trainer at the gym he bought not long after he was cut by the Panthers.
Obviously this isn’t Cameron Jerrell Newton we’re talking about, the presumptive NFL MVP and the quarterback leading Carolina into the Super Bowl. But Cameron Lamark Newton is the NFL’s original Cam Newton.
He’s from Bennettsville, S.C., about two hours from the Panthers’ home stadium. After starting at free safety for three seasons at Furman University, he signed as an undrafted free agent with the Falcons in 2005 and played in nine games over two seasons. He signed with the Panthers prior to the 2007 season but was released during training camp. Newton went back to the Atlanta area for the 2008 season, signing with the Arena Football League’s Georgia Force. He hung up his cleats after one AFL season and opened his gym, Core Fit 360.
SI.com caught up with Cam the safety to talk about what it’s like to share a name with an NFL star.
Dan Gartland: So when did you first know about Cam Newton the quarterback?
Cam Newton: I think I was playing for the Falcons. Some type of notoriety came to his name for some reason. So I was like, ‘Wow, this is a guy with my same name that has a pretty good chance to make it.’
DG: I read that even some people who knew you in school will confuse you guys?
CN: I get it a lot. Just today I called the car dealership trying to set up a brake job. Someone was like, ‘Oh my goodness, Cam Newton!' It is absolutely hilarious.
DG: Does it still happen with people you knew when you were younger?
CN: Yep. People who knew me through school and knew I was doing well in sports, they hit me up on Facebook and say, ‘Good game,’ or ‘Keep your head up.’
DG: Cam is really known for his celebrations. Did you have any celebrations you did after a big tackle?
CN: I never really got into that. I would just do something with my teammates. I had quite my fair share of big hits in my time. I stole one from Lawyer Milloy. You throw your hand up and then pump your arm down like you're ringing a bell. I would do that sometimes, but other than that it was about business with me.
DG:You're from the Carolinas and I read you ran a football camp up there with your name on it. Do you still do that and does it still have your name?
CN: Yep. We're still Cam Newton's football camp but we call it the Fundamental Preparation Football Camp. I have some former players or we might snag a current player every now and then.
It’s mostly to empower young kids from my community who are, I wouldn’t say less fortunate, but where I’m from a lot of kids don’t get to see what the world has to offer. There’s a lot of things that can pull them away from being focused. So it’s a free football camp that we host. We do get a few local sponsors and we give that money to the recreation department to do whatever with—uniforms and equipment.
We always end with a message. The players give their message, their story. You should see it, it’s 150 to 200 kids sitting at attention. It’s a thing of beauty.
DG: Do you have a team you root for now? I know you played in Atlanta and live there now.
CN: I root for Atlanta and I also root for the Panthers.
DG: I was going to ask who you're rooting for in the Super Bowl but I guess that goes without saying.
CN: Yeah, I’m rooting for Carolina to win but it's kind of mixed emotions because I know this could potentially be Peyton Manning's last year. So I wouldn't be disappointed if the Broncos won. I'd actually be happy for him. But as far as the team goes and my home state, I’m rooting for Carolina.
Just for the record, I get it a lot, people asking questions about do I think [Cam is] cocky and all this other stuff. I love what he’s doing. He had a lot of naysayers rooting against him, whether he could control the locker room, be a leader. What I'm seeing is that he's doing what a lot of teams failed to do, and that's to create a lot of camaraderie within an NFL team. A lot of teams when I played, it was just divided—segmented out, especially the expendable players from the top-notch players. But you see him in photos with his teammates and bringing that team together. It really seems like the collegiate feel, the college atmosphere. I think he's probably one of the first ones to do that.