Carolina Panthers star Cam Newton says his status as an African-American quarterback "may scare a lot of people" but he will not change anything about himself or his game after reaching Super Bowl 50.
Newton, the number one overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, has enjoyed a stellar season, leading the Panthers to the NFC Championship and into the biggest game of the season.
He is one win away from becoming just the third starting quarterback to win a college national championship and a Super Bowl and has dominated discussion heading into the showdown with the Denver Broncos, having drawn criticism throughout his NFL career, particularly for his exuberant celebrations.
"I don't think people have seen what I am or what I'm trying to do," Newton said Wednesday at Bank of America Stadium. "They talk about maturity with me, but nothing's changed. The only thing that's changed is we're winning.
"I'm an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven't seen nothing they can compare me to."
Newton won the Heisman Trophy and led Auburn to a national championship in 2010.
The 26-year-old still plays like a carefree college student - and he celebrates his big plays like one too - but he said that is a part of why he has been so successful this season.
"Here I am doing exactly what I want to do how I want to do it," Newton said. "When I look in the mirror, nobody changed me. Nobody made me act a certain way and I'm true to my roots. It feels great.
"Yet, people are going to say what they're going to say. If I'm in this world, living for that person, then I can't look at myself and say I'm Cam Newton, or I'm Cameron Newton to most people."
Having got this far, Newton said he is not going to let criticism from outside distract him from the biggest game of his career.
"Win lose or draw, people are still going to talk," he said.
"People are going to have their own opinions on certain things that I don't have control over, nor does anyone else."
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Newton's flair should be embraced by the sport, claiming that while people expect athletes to be "stoic", he felt NFL was still a "kids game" that is supposed to be fun.
"People should be scared of a quarterback with his skill set, because that's who he is," Rivera said. "He's a tremendously gifted athlete, a terrific quarterback and a smart football player. The list goes on and on. He's strived to get that separation. He doesn't want to be known as an African-American quarterback. He wants to be a quarterback, and a great one at that. That's what drives him.
"I'm kind of in the same boat. People want to tag me as a Hispanic head coach. That's great, but the truth of the matter is I just want to be tagged as a head coach. It really should be about your merit more than anything else."