The former Auburn Tiger grew up playing baseball until he was 14 years old, but quickly became afraid of the ball when his peers began to throw harder. Not wanting to deal with the pain of a plunking, Newton gave up the bat and glove and focused on basketball but quickly realized that wasn’t for him either. What resulted was Newton become more immersed in football, where he played linebacker which he says helped him deal with the issue of being scared of being hit/pain.
Per ESPN Magazine:
I quit baseball at 14 because I was afraid of the pitches. The kids started getting better and throwing faster, and it would’ve hurt getting hit by that ball, so I stopped playing. That left a void, so I started playing basketball in the eighth grade. It was just something to do then, and in my first high school game, I fouled out. I was big and strong, and every time I tried to steal the ball on defense, I’d knock the kid down. I had to understand the difference between basketball and football, but it was challenging being so big. My first position in football was linebacker, actually, which helped me more than anything. It gave me the mechanism to want to hit rather than to cringe at the thought of being hit. So when I got the opportunity to play offense, it was nothing. I wasn’t shying away from contact. If anything, I was initiating it. I think that’s what kind of made me stand out at an early age. My mom always wondered how I could be afraid of a little baseball when I always had these huge guys chasing me.