December 16, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) in the tunnel prior to the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers: The New Cam Newton

Cam Newton has not been himself the last few weeks, thankfully. We have seen the beginning of the maturation process right before our very eyes. No longer do we see a distant, pouting, and overtly frustrated quarterback. Now we see a emerging communicative, smiling, and involved leader. This can be seen by his actions. He no longer openly shows his frustration on the side lines, and now when his teammates score he runs down to the end zone to celebrate and congratulate them. As a fan, this is really an encouraging change.

Dec 16, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) congratulate teammates after the Panthers scored during the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Cam that emerged this season was someone who the fan base was beginning to dislike. I was even second guessing his selection as the #1 overall pick in the 2011 draft. His immaturity was obvious and disheartening. How was it this 22 year old could become so frustrated and deal so poorly with his frustration? The answer lies in his recent past.

When looking back at the college career of Cam Newton, one thing is indisputably clear: Cam did not lose. After his departure from the University of Florida, he transferred to tiny Blinn college. There Cam led the Buccaneers to the 2009 NJCAA national championship. Soon after Cam transferred to Auburn University. There he again experienced instant success. He won the 2010 NCAA national championship and a number of individual awards including the 2010 Heisman Trophy. At all levels of football after high school success came easily to Cam Newton. The definition of success differs from person to person. This becomes evident when Cam transitioned to the NFL.

Being the #1 draft pick in any NFL draft comes with high expectations. Whether fairly or not, fans expect an instant turn around when a quarterback is drafted first. Cam Newton was no exception. Panther fans heaped unrealistic expectations on the broad but young shoulders of their #1 pick. When you look back at Cam’s rookie season, is it fair to say going 6-10 is a disappointment? I think not. But to a young man who has had instant success at every major level of football, 6-10 is considered a failure. Cam broke all sorts of NFL records his rookie season and he was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. For all his success individually, the team was only able to get 6 wins. 6 wins were well short of Cam’s expectations and this frustrated him. When considering the short offseason Cam had to work with going into his rookie year, due to the lockout, he had a tremendous year. But it was a season in which he had to deal with something that had become completely foreign to him: losing.

Remembering the acerbic taste of losing, Cam, along with most Carolina fans, certainly had higher expectations of the team this year. As Carolina fans, we know all too well that expectations usually far exceed reality. The start of this season was no different. Cam again had to endure the bitter taste of losing. Being the intense player  he is, Cam tends to wear his emotions on his sleeve. His frustration showed in the form of sitting alone on the bench with a towel on his head. Can this be considered pouting? Certainly. Cam has often said the expectations others have for him will never exceed those he places on himself. The utter disdain he has for losing caused him to look into himself and he began to deal with this strange and unfamiliar phenomenon. That is why the towel over the head. I don’t think it was him not wanting to be part of the team or him banishing himself to isolation, but it was him sorting through the difficulties of life in the NFL. He had reached the pinnacle of his sport but his definition of success, so easily achieved at the college levels, had become increasingly elusive at the professional ranks. Well the towel over the head caused quite a stir among sports writers.

Soon “the towel” and his pouting had become the talk of the entire league. Stories of his sense of entitlement and his lack of respect for tenured NFL’ers at the Pro Bowl came out. Cam bashing seemed to become the norm.  Things changed at one point this season. I don’t know if it was because someone got through to him or he experienced an epiphany.

I would say it was the week of the Eagles game I began to notice a different Cam on the field and on the sideline. The metamorphosis probably began earlier than that when you take into account the post game press conferences, but whenever this thing happened the important thing is that it has happened. This new Cam Newton will continue to develop both as a quarterback and as a team leader. The Cam bashing has stopped for the most part and now with the emergence of RGIII and Andrew Luck, Cam has been flying under the radar. Carolina will finish this season strong. The team will undergo significant changes in the offseason and Cam will once again have the weight of an entire franchise on his shoulders. But this time he will be better prepared to handle it.

God Bless!

Follow me on Twitter @JoeRiollano


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