True significance of Cam Newton’s return is bigger than football

(Jim Matthews-USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisonsin) Cam Newton and Greg Olsen
(Jim Matthews-USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisonsin) Cam Newton and Greg Olsen /
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Cam Newton
(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports) Cam Newton /

The Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton agreed to a one-year deal on Thursday to reunite the franchise with its former MVP.

Ten, almost 11 years ago, I sat in my living room, an 11-year-old kid who had never known the Carolina Panthers to be anything but pain, disappointment, and heartbreak.

I had been in love with the Panthers for as long as I could remember, and while I had some fond memories from the 12-4 campaign of 2008, I had a whole lot more of an old and injured Jake Delhomme, an incredibly inconsistent Matt Moore, and yes, a young and once-promising Jimmy Clausen.

There were guys like Steve Smith and second-stint Muhsin Muhammad, Brad Hoover, and DeAngelo Williams. On defense, you had Julius Peppers and Dan Morgan, Chris Gamble, Mike Minter, and Mike Rucker. But none of those guys were capable of carrying the franchise.

By that night, April 28, 2011, I knew I loved football.

But I was tired of losing.

Tired of disappointment and tired of feeling let down by my team.

This night though was supposed to be the one that changed all that. As I sat there, flanked by my family, Roger Goodell emerged from behind the stage and announced that Carolina was on the clock.

I had never really watched an NFL Draft before. But I knew that this one, on this night, with the Panthers holding the top pick, had the potential to be franchise-changing.

I didn’t know a whole lot about what to look for in top prospects, and I didn’t know a lot about how the draft even worked, but I knew that this night was special. And when I kept seeing clips of this Heisman-winning guy named Cam Newton, I knew I had fallen in love all over again.

You know what happens next though, the Panthers took the quarterback from Auburn with the No. 1 overall selection. And yeah, he earned the job by the time the regular season rolled around.