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Carson ‘different’ than during his Detroit teen years

Detroit News wire services

GOP hopeful Ben Carson told NBC’s Chuck Todd that he thinks people mistake his soft-spoken manner with a lack of energy.

“I don’t get into the mud pit,” Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “I do have a tendency to be relaxed. I wasn’t always like that. There was a time when I was, you know, very volatile.”

That’s when the 64-year-old Carson mentioned his violent childhood growing up in Detroit. At age 14, he tried to stab a classmate with a camping knife. He also detailed his youth in his book “Gifted Hands.”

From Detroit News archives: Carson struggled growing up

Carson said that as a teenager he would go after people “with rocks, and bricks, and baseball bats, and hammers.” Said Carson: “Fortunately, you know, my life has been changed. And I’m a very different person now.”

Carson is pushing back against criticism from billionaire Donald Trump that he is “super low energy.” Carson said during “Meet the Press” that he takes a backseat to no one when it comes to energy levels. As a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, he’s best known for leading a 22-hour operation in 1987 to separate twins joined at the head.

In a Florida speech Saturday, Trump zinged several rivals, calling Marco Rubio “sweaty,” Jeb Bush an embarrassment to his family and Carson sleepy.

Polls show Trump and Carson are in a hot race in Iowa for the Feb. 1 caucuses, where the first ballots of the 2016 presidential primary will be cast.

Trump, 69, a real estate mogul and reality TV star, has spent several months leading a large pack of Republican hopefuls in opinion polls. Two recent surveys, the Quinnipiac Poll and the Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, showed Trump falling behind Carson in Iowa. A CBS tracking poll on Sunday showed Trump and Carson tied in Iowa, each holding 27 percent support.

Carson is the only 2016 candidate for president who has never led a state or company or run for political office.

Bloomberg, Associated Press and NBC contributed.