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The Evolution of Superman

Superstar athlete Cam Newton scores off the field with a new cologne contract.

On a warm, sunny day in New York City, dozens of writers, editors and other media (mostly female) gather together, waiting to meet the latest face of Drakkar cologne. “I think he’s an athlete,” says one writer. “Maybe football?” wonders another, while munching on a breakfast of chicken and waffles—perhaps a hint to the mystery man’s Southern roots? All questions are answered when the dapper 6-foot-5, 245-pound Cam Newton saunters into the room. Fresh from an appearance in Florida, Newton is dressed to the nines in blue suede moccasins, crisp gray slacks, a Prince of Wales check blazer and a bow tie. Newton has a refined gentleman air of Ermenegildo Zegna, or perhaps Brioni, about his look, but his tailored outfit is actually from his clothing label, MADE Cam Newton. “Where’s the testosterone in here?” he jokes.

With a million-dollar smile and boyish good looks, Newton forces one to easily forget—or perhaps the casual football fan may not know—that this all-American kid has been surrounded by controversy. Additionally, despite his rookie record-breaking 4,051-passing-yard season and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year title, Newton had analysts and talking heads on various sports networks questioning his body language, leadership skills and overall maturity level. “I think things happen in my life for a reason. And without one particular event… ,” he trails off and continues, “something triggered inside of me and said, ‘I can’t keep doing those same things’; it’s an accumulation of who I am today.”

Now, Newton has morphed into a 25-year-old top NFL quarterback with the Carolina Panthers and a dashing cologne spokesman. “Life is like a spiral step,” he begins. “Some people look at a spiral step [and just see the step], but I’m looking at it in a different way. Like, even though you’re constantly going up, you’re going around in circles. Most of the time you’re getting dizzy, and those dizzy times... those were the weary parts of my life.”

Things are looking up—Newton has inked deals with Gatorade and Under Armour, in addition to landing the role of fragrance pitchman for Guy Laroche Paris. Anyone more than 30 years of age remembers Drakkar Noir, the decade-long No. 1 men’s fragrance, which was launched in 1982 and worn by one out of two men. Unfortunately, over time the legendary brand became a bit stale, and the cologne du jour of the ’80s slowly became a scent reserved for dads. This month, Drakkar Noir will have a hip, modernized son called Drakkar Essence, which L’Oréal is hoping Newton will help skyrocket to rarified air like its predecessor, and it’s a responsibility the standout quarterback relishes. “I remember looking at the ads with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and so many athletes and figures that have represented this brand, and all of them share the same thing: Each is the smart guy—the guy who needs no introduction.” There are familiar hints of Noir, but Essence is smoother, less pungent, with top notes of crisp grapefruit, followed by spicy sage, lavender, wood, tonka bean and musk.

“With this, you’ve got your grown man on,” boasts Newton. “You can’t wear it with sweatpants or a jogging suit. You’re trying to impress [someone].” Essence aims to capture strength, masculinity, the power of the athlete and self-confidence, all of which, especially the latter, Newton certainly embodies. “It’s about overall self-esteem. I feel like I’m a person that’s well put-together. I want someone to see me and say, ‘What’s that all about?’”

Today’s new-and-improved Newton is all about charity too. Never forgetting his roots, his eponymous Cam Newton Foundation benefits several Southeastern communities. The organization works to enhance the lives of young people through physical fitness and health education, as well as emphasizing emotional wellness and school as a priority. The CNF recently held high school football tournaments where 40 teams participated, and Newton showed up for all of them to interact with players, coaches and crowds.

It seems the star quarterback, famous for his Superman end zone dance, has overcome various obstacles (much like the superhero he emulates after each touchdown) and has evolved into a budding sartorialist, philanthropist and fragrance spokesman with ease. Chicagoans can make their own judgment when the Panthers play the Bears on Oct. 5—especially since Newton is being led by Head Coach Ron Rivera, who was once a beloved Chicago Bears player and coach himself. “It’s all about appearance: different levels, layers of appearance. Not just what you see,” he says. And for the young man out there who wants to smell like a superstar athlete, Newton puts it best: “The common goal is to look good. Something as simple as a good scent or a nice outfit can take you a long way.” And in Newton’s case, it has. Drakkar Essence, $48-$68, at Macy’s