Cam Newton wears funny hats. He uses a funny font for his Instagram posts. He says funny things.

To some, Newton isn't funny --  he is an attention-grabbing, selfish, immature football player.

"A person that knows nothing about me may go on my social media and say man, 'Why do you write like that? What is that decoded crap you put out there?'" Newton says. "I say, 'Listen, one thing it makes you do is focus on what I'm saying.'"

On the football field, Newton is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL with an MVP award and three Pro Bowl selections. He also is in the second year of a five-year, $103.8 million contract, although he jokes he should have chosen basketball over football: "I'm trying to get me that Stephen Curry money."

Off the field, Newton's image is harder to define. One moment he's vibing with the NFL Play 60 kid and the next, he's wearing a romper and straw hat at Coachella.

Last Thursday, Newton opened up to media by inviting them to follow him in his element, his hometown of Atlanta. As part of the launch of his first signature Under Armour sneaker, the C1N, Newton hosted a carnival for local children and a party for friends and family.

The C1N makes Newton is the first Under Armour athlete with a signature lifestyle sneaker. (Under Armour already offers  a C1N cleat). According to Adrienne Lofton, Under Armour SVP of Global Brand Management, the C1N sneaker is the start of a non-football Newton line.

This approach is consistent with Newton's decision to sign with Under Armour over Nike or Adidas in 2011. It was an unprecedented move for a No. 1 overall pick coming off a national championship and a Heisman Trophy, but the move has paid dividends. Newton has been part of the Under Armour brand roster that features younger athletes hitting their prime, including Stephen Curry, Jordan Spieth, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw and Julio Jones.

"To be honest, I pride myself on being a trailblazer and being a one-of-one-type guy," Newton says. "Under Armour was so family-oriented ... I felt like I can grow with them and they care more about my personal brand as a whole rather than just trying to sell me."

Newton's first public appearance with the shoe was at the carnival, where he was engulfed by Atlanta youth. He started by telling the crowd to toss away all Falcons footballs that had been handed out before he arrived. When the playful boos subsided, Newton engaged with the kids, dancing with them and answering questions.

"I'd want them to see, here's a person who's doing something that isn't necessarily the norm," Newton says. "There's a lot of people that create shoes, but in my realm, in the land that I'm in, with the NFL and football, where we're mass athletes, so to speak, there's not a lot of people who's doing it."

Newton grew up in College Park, Georgia, a south Atlanta suburb known for its high crime rates. Newton asked every kid who came on stage to give their name and hometown before anything else. The quarterback may not be able to connect with a reporter after the Super Bowl or an NFL rules official after scoring a touchdown, but he gets the Atlanta youth.

"I've always wanted that to be No. 1, representing the culture," Newton says. "There may be time that may be missed, but often times, I pride myself on being able to go places that other people can't go. These are people who have all the résumés in the world, but I feel as if I'm not trying to bring out my goon card, but I feel like I relate more to people than other people are relatable to me. And I don't want no one to ever forget that. The main focus in what I do each and every day is to impact and inspire people to say, 'He did it, I can do it too."

Newton's Instagram font choice has made considerable impact with the way it features a variety of accents and symbols that are foreign to English.

Young entrepreneurs can learn from it.

"It just pushes self-expression," he says. "That's what I'm all about. For a person who's in my shoes, who always gets misunderstood, so to speak, we've all heard this throughout our whole life, we may only have one time to make a first impression. For me, from the way I talk, from the way I speak, from the way I dress, for me, the way I text, I want it to grasp a person's attention in the first thread."

How well does this work? Ask Ice Cube, himself a mega-personal brand, who was taken off-guard by Newton's independent approach.

"He texts me, like dude, I don't know what it was wrong with your phone," Newton laughs. "He's texting it to me, like, 'It's coming back weird or decoded or something,' and he screenshotted it and sent it to me, so I screenshotted the app and sent it back to him. I said, 'Look, you need to be buying that.' But as soon as a person sees it, it grabs their attention. I'm always a big proponent of self-expression without you having to open up your mouth, and if you can do that, I'm all for it."


Last year, Newton and local Charlotte developers worked to create I Post My Way, a 99-cent app, which converts normal text into Newton's script. Newton hears your frustration with his Instagram captions. But in his mind, that's a success. You know about his brand.

As for rumors of Newton being a "big kid," well, he certainly shows that side in person. At the C1N launch, fellow College Park native 2 Chainz came out to play a set. The rapper played five songs for the private crowd before heading for the door. Newton then grabbed a microphone and instructed 2 Chainz to stay. The quarterback convinced the artist to stay for a few duets. In the moment, it appeared Newton was living every boy's dream. He was a star athlete, launching his own sneaker, while rapping on stage with a famous artist.

Newton is 28 and in his prime. And he has built a brand identity for himself with what he considers "free rein" under Under Armour's umbrella. You may not understand Newton's brand, but he is just trying to make sure people are paying attention. And they are.

Of course, Newton could use a few more wins this season. Going 15-1 with a trip to the Super Bowl two seasons ago was a good deal, but a 6-10 record in 2016 didn't help the brand. Winning helps everything, and Carolina's a return to the postseason in 2017 would only help increase the C1N's profile.

The C1N sneaker comes out in red "Hometown" on July 20, with "Chairman" and "442" colorways slotted for Sept. 8 and Oct. 20. Seven colorways are expected to drop by the end of the NFL season.

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.

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