CORNELIUS, N.C. -- As a young quarterback, the Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton emulated Michael Vick, who turned 34 on Thursday.
That's old in quarterback years, but Vick, now a backup for the New York Jets, has a legacy that lives on among a young crop of dual-threat NFL quarterbacks.
Thursday, at his foundation's 7-on-7 passing tournament, Newton, 25, saw teenage a number of quarterbacks who emulate him the same way he patterned his game after Vick's.
"(Newton is) definitely set the standard for players like me growing up," Butler High School senior quarterback Anthony Ratliff said. "Watching him has definitely been a changing experience for me and knowing that guys (with) my style of quarterback can make it in the NFL and break records. It's something to look up to and reach for."
Growing up in Atlanta, Newton styled his game after Vick, then a rocket-armed quarterback for the Falcons who could also beat defenses with his feet. Now Newton is among a group of young, dual-threat quarterbacks, along with the Seahawks' Russell Wilson and the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick, who hope to change how the position is played.
Newton doesn't want to just shape teenage quarterbacks by his play on Sundays, though. He's been active this summer with 7-on-7 camps in Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina, trying to be approachable to young players.
"I think it's even more important to be accessible," Newton said. "To be touched and looked at and talked to. Some of these kids are screaming for help by the attitudes and their personas. They may not know how to ask, 'Hey Cam, how do you feel about this?' But for me being around them, they may feel more comfortable to ask questions."
Some of those questions, Newton said, are things like how he picked Florida coming out of Westlake High School, or what it felt like to jump from Florida to junior college to Auburn.
But he knows those questions sometimes don't come on the first day star-struck kids meet an NFL superstar.
"The more these kids see me and are comfortable with me, that's what matters," Newton said.
Along with his 7-on-7 tournaments, Newton also formed a 7-on-7 team to compete in the IMG Academy 7-on-7 tournament in Bradenton, Fla., earlier this month. Instead of flying down and meeting the team, he rode the bus with kids and stopped at a Shoney's and gas stations along the way.
Newton said interacting with kids offers him a diversion from the offseason scrutiny and drives him to be a better role model.
"They're looking to see why I do it," Newton said. "'Why does he keep wearing a smile? Is it a fake smile? Is it something that's genuine?' For me to be around these kids, it puts it all into perspective for me.
"This is why I work out. This is why I always try to keep my image as flawless as possible. Because for those kids, I go from a hero to a guy where they can say, 'Oh Cam, he's just like us.'"
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