Anyone who thought Cam Newton might flunk his first test on the Super Bowl 50 stage were proven wrong Monday night, perhaps even disappointed a bit.
It was a different Carolina Panthers quarterback who showed up at Super Bowl 50 Media Night at the SAP Center in San Jose, a humbler, more serious one that had rubbed some the wrong way at times this season.
Newton even shed his zebra pants, which created a stir on social media when he got off the team charter one day earlier.
“Just a little swag,” Newton shrugged. “Some people can wear them, some people can’t.”
But the widest smile in the NFL remained intact.
“This year I’ve had a lot of reasons to smile,” Newton said. “Hopefully, I’ll have a reason to smile on Sunday.”
The only hint of controversy took place in front of the podium, where several dozen media people jostled for position. After a few bumps, two females agreed to meet outside afterward.
As for Newton, there were no bold words, no sign of frayed nerves.
Even when some goofball actually asked, “After sex, who dabs first — you or your partner?” Newton begged off politely.
“The more people see me, the more they get me,” said Newton, who was expected to be named the league’s Most Valuable Player on the eve of the big game. “I become easier to digest.”
For Newton, this is a business trip, nothing more.
“Oh, man, it would mean that the Carolina Panthers are on the board,” Newton said of what a championship would mean to him. “This is great that we’re in this position. It’s ridiculous just to even think about.”
Although the Panthers have been installed as 6-point favorites, up from 3½ a week ago, Newton conceded that victory won’t come easily. The Denver Broncos boast the best defense in the league.
Asked whether the NFC has a defense that reminded him of what he would face on Sunday, Newton said, “Not really.”
“They’re very athletic and stout up front,” Newton went on to say. “Von Miller, you have to take account of that guy. There are others on that defense that play a big part in their success.”
“You have to control them up front as far as their blitz packages. In the secondary, they’re very athletic. They don’t look to just bat the ball. They try to create turnovers in every sense of the word.”
In Warriors star Stephen Curry, who plans to attend the game at Levi’s Stadium, Newton will have a famous fan in the crowd. The two last spoke before a game against the Hornets in Charlotte last month, though they text often.
When someone suggested that Newton was the LeBron James of quarterbacks, Newton pleaded, “Why can’t LeBron be the Cam Newton of power forwards?” While Newton admires James, he wants to be like Curry.
Newton credited Curry for his inspiration to smaller players who could shoot the basketball. He hoped to serve as a similar role model for mobile quarterbacks if he hadn’t already.
For now, Newton has one Super-sized goal in mind.
“I plan on keeping that kind of vibe, celebrating or smiling when something good happens,” Newton promised. “I plan on having things to smile about Sunday, hopefully.”