January 2nd, 2012
While watching the conclusion of the Bobcats’-Heat game, something in the stands caught my eye. It was a bird, a plane…Actually it was Ace Boogie1 sitting front row. Earlier that day, Cam Newton was named ESPN’s ‘NEXT’ NFL athlete, now he was cheering as Gerald Henderson drained a go-ahead three pointer.
The energized crowd was swiftly silenced as Dwyane Wade sank the game winner just seconds later. After draining the deuce, Wade turned to the crowd with a smirk on his face, perused the front row of fans and found Charlotte’s own: Cam Newton. Wade and LeBron proceeded to Superman2 Cam, as a tribute of their respect toward the Carolina Panther.
At that moment, I realized that Cam Newton isn’t NEXT, he’s NOW. He is not waiting for his name to be called because he’s heard it thirty-five times, after each one of his touchdowns this season. Newton has arrived and is putting up numbers to prove it.3 He has the most passing yards for a rookie EVER (4,051), the most rushing touchdowns for a quarterback EVER (14). He’s the ONLY Player in NFL HISTORY with 4,000+ passing yards (4,041) and 500+ rushing yards (706), and he’s the second player ever with 20+ passing touchdowns and 10+ rushing touchdowns.
Scary thought: imagine what he could have accomplished without the NFL Lockout. Imagine a summer of Training Camps and OTA’s4. Imagine Steve Smith stealing off as soon as Cam under threw a go-route. Imagine Offensive Coordinator Rod Chudzinski cramming the playbook down Cam’s throat instead of just handing it to him saying, “Good Luck.” He was underprepared and he overachieved. The Panthers were a respectable (6-10) this season, and they let a few games slip away. The last rookie to make such an impact in his first year was Julius Peppers in 2002. The next year the Panthers went to the Super Bowl. I’m not saying the Panthers are going to win the Super Bowl next season, but I am going to bet on the Cats to win it. I love Cam Newton, and I have a feeling I’ll like the odds. A reporter once asked Newton if he surprised himself with his transition into the NFL, his response: “If you write a good article, do you surprise yourself?” How can you not love that response, that attitude, that mentality?
If you make a list of the 5 quarterbacks to build an NFL franchise around starting from scratch it looks like this:
1. Aaron Rodgers 2. Tom Brady 3. Drew Brees 4. Eli Manning 5. Cam Newton
Injury (Roethlisberger, Stafford) and age (Peyton, Vick) concerns put Newton in my top 5, no debate. There hasn’t been this popular and profitable a professional athlete playing in North Carolina, EVER. I’m not saying he’s more important than Dean Smith or Coach K is to the Tar Heel State, but he’s the sports star this state has been dreaming of since the Hornets came here in 1988. He said he wanted to be an icon; now he’s living it. He’s the King of Queen City. The King of Kackalacky. Cam’s the Biggest Professional Sports Star in North Carolina EVER.
He is bringing an image renaissance to the Carolina Panthers organization, one where success is the standard. Cam’s best trait as an athlete is what scares me most as a fan, He’s a Winner. He wears number one on his chest for a reason;6 he embodies his mentality. He always wants to win and I’m afraid that ‘4 Years, $22 Million’7 won’t be enough to keep him in Charlotte. If I’m the Panthers’, I’m abandoning previous spending habits and breaking the bank for Cam Newton, SOON.
I’m a firm believer in the Panthers front office, coaches and personnel. I have faith the pieces are in place and Carolina can be competitive and convince Cam to commit to a contract extension. The expectations are there, the pressure is there, the emotional investment of fans is there.8 It’s all on his shoulders, the weight climbing like his potential…as fast as a speeding bullet.
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