ATLANTA — Cam Newton was dropping off his photographer at a hotel when he heard the news of Muhammad Ali’s death.
It wasn’t easy to comprehend.
“My heart just dropped because of so much influence that he had,” the former Auburn Tigers quarterback said in an exclusive interview with SEC Country. “Not only him, but me trying to mimic everything from his work ethic, to his belief in himself and he was just an overall great person.”
The boxing legend passed away Friday from a respiratory issue, as reported by CNN’s Steve Almasy; so Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP who turned 27 last month, shared his thoughts about Ali in a short post on The Player’s Tribune on Sunday morning.
He discussed his idolization of the boxer for how he “seemed to truly enjoy himself and have fun as an athlete, and that he was not scared to have an opinion about important social issues.”
Newton’s enjoyment in the game is evident from his big smiles, flashy end zone celebrations. But there may not be a Cam Newton “dab” without the groundwork from the boxer who self-proclaimed himself ‘The Greatest’.
While at his Cam Newton Foundation 7v7 tournament at Woodward High School on Sunday, the former Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner also spoke about a surprise 23rd birthday call he received from Ali.
The short conversation was one of the best birthday presents he’s ever received.
“I didn’t expect it to happen,” Newton said. “It was probably if not the one most impressive birthday gifts I’ve ever received. It wasn’t even a gift. It was 3- to 5-minute conversation that took place over the phone. And it meant the world to me.
“For him to take the time to talk with me speaks volumes.”