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Phillip's blog: The challenges of fame

It must be quite a feeling to be Cam Newton in a football on Saturday afternoon, to know you are the best player on the field.

Phillip Marshall, Senior Editor,

Newton, Auburn's quarterback phenom, is living the dreams of millions of little boys who play in their back yards.He's the best football player in America, the runaway leader in the race to win the Heisman Trophy.

But Newton is also facing, in many ways, the challenge of a lifetime.

He is profiled in the Nov. 1 edition of Sports Illustrated. He is a coveted guest on national sports talk radio shows. Back in Auburn he's a rock star. When he walks down the street, heads turn. The athletic department has a web site devoted just to him. NBA superstar Lebron James raves about him on Twitter.

Newton is 21 years old, and he is the best-known, most-discussed college football player in America.

Staying level-headed and grounded through it all is a challenge that, honestly, most of us probably couldn't meet. So far, he's done almost everything right, said almost all the right things. His teammates believe he can do anything on the field, and they like and respect him off the field.

It probably won't be long before Newton experiences some of the downside of athletic fame. He's on top, which means there'll be those who see it as their duty to bring him down. Because a certain TV network wants there to be a real race for the Heisman, it will soon try to create one.

Every word Newton says will be dissected. What did he mean by this? Why did he say that? It's going to happen. It's just a matter of when. The first time he has a game that is perceived to be subpar, there will be those waiting to pounce.

How Newton deals with his sudden fame and with the very real challenges that come with it will have almost as much impact on his legacy as his remarkable talent on the field.

Newton remembers what it was like at Florida, the way other students looked at him after he encountered the only legal trouble of his life. He remembers what it was like to play football at Blinn College, a desolate outpost in Brenham, Texas.

Newton's father, Cecil, knows the challenge Cam faces. A minister, he counsels his son to remember what got him here.

"It is becoming more and more overwhelming," the elder Newton says. "My whole thing is just stay grounded and remember the bridge that brought you over."

So far, Newton is doing a remarkable job of doing just that.

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