Love him or hate him, It’s hard to ignore what Cam Newton did in the season opener for Carolina Panthers.
I have been someone who did not buy into the Newton hype. Sure I thought eventually he could be a decent NFL quarterback, but I didn’t ever believe that he could come out and shatter records in his first game.
Something I still haven’t entirely wrapped my head around is how not only Newton, but Blaine Gabbert as well, were first round draft picks. Following the end of the college football season, neither of them were being talked about as anything more than mid second round picks at best. Somehow, without playing any more real football, sometime between mid January and late April they both jumped up and were potential top 10 picks. How does this work? There was no more football to prove their worth to teams potentially interested. I didn’t realize that the combine and a pro day could possibly be the difference in a full draft round and millions of dollars, but apparently this is why I am not an NFL scout.
I recall sitting in my living room in April with my roommates and none of us wanted to believe that the Panthers were stupid enough to actually take Cam Newton first overall. It seemed like a joke that those reporting and writing about the draft were pulling on us.
Sure enough however, Newton’s name was called first. No matter how much I tried to convince myself that both the Panthers and the NFL were trying to pull a fast one on me, but they simply were not. I couldn’t believe that following the joke that the Panthers called a season last year they could possibly be stupid enough to waste the top pick on a quarterback who could so easily be on either side of the fence. He could definitely be great at some point down the line, but he could also never quite figure the NFL style out and be a huge bust.
They also had just drafted Jimmy Clausen in the second round of the 2010 draft. Sure, he was pretty terrible last year when he saw the field, but was it really already time to give up on him? He had ran a pro style offense during his time at Notre Dame so you think he would pick up on the offense eventually, right? You have to wonder if his struggles last season were on him or the fact that the team itself was so horrible.
As the lockout ended and preseason got underway, I certainly didn’t think that Newton would wind up being their starter on day one. With no offseason training programs and time for him to get into the facility and work with the coaches and other players, he couldn’t possibly be ready to see the field. While we are in an age of starting rookie quarterbacks right away (see Flacco, Ryan, Sanchez ect.), if ever there was a year to let them sit to start the year, it was this year. Again, These are all reasons why I am not a scout and or a coach in the NFL right now.
Right on cue with all of those thoughts going through my head, Ron Rivera named Newton his starting quarterback for opening day. I couldn’t help but think that the Panthers would again be horrific and might be battling for the Andrew Luck sweepstakes at the end of the season.
Three quarterbacks in three years? Who know with the Panthers.
To put it simply, Cam Newton made me eat my words. He became the first rookie quarterback to throw for over 400 yards in his week one debut. He did what no other Carolina quarterback could do for several years now, and made Steve Smith look like his former pro bowl self.
Newton has never been short on fuel of trying to prove people wrong. He had to battle his way to even get a second chance at Auburn, and even last year it was almost like people were waiting for him to either mess up on the field, or get caught having accepted money from a booster. This year, as has been discussed, there were a huge amount of doubters that he wouldn’t translate well into the NFL and would wind up taking a long time to develop, or he would flop.
While the Panthers may not have won the game, they proved they will be competitive and they will surprise people this year. They were one yard away from tying it up last Sunday, and even though they didn’t quite get it, Newton put them in a position to have a chance to win, which I never thought he would do this early. Sure they were playing the Cardinals, who aren’t spectacular, but they are nowhere near as bad as the Panthers were thought to be.
Cam Newton is simply a winner. Some athletes just do what it takes to be great and refuse to loose. Last Sunday was the first time Newton had suffered a loss of any kind since he was in Junior College. The kid is a specimen and if he continues at the rate he is going now, he will win many NFL games and has the chance to be a really special player.