It’s finally happening. It almost feels surreal. The Super Bowl is here, and the Panthers are in it.
It’s crazy to me that the Carolina Panthers were a rebuilding team 5 years ago. They were coming off an abysmal, disappointing 2010 season marked by the frustrating play of quarterback Jimmy Clausen, a former Notre Dame star which the Panthers drafted that year to turn the team around. Their experiment had failed, and they were back to square one — fresh with a new head coach, Ron Rivera, and a new general manager, Dave Gettleman. But there was some salvation — the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. And the new staff had to get their pick right.
I’m gonna be honest, I was among the skeptics of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, a rare specimen of football player with the ability to make big plays throwing the football and running it. He had just led the Tigers to college football championship victory, and won the Heisman Trophy, an award given to the most outstanding football player that year. In typical sports nerd-fashion, I researched the track record of former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks, and noticed that they didn’t translate well into the pros. Additionally, Cam Newton played in a spread offense, a system specifically designed for high scoring and utilizing Cam’s unique physical traits, but nothing like what the professional system was like.
Cam also garnered comparisons (by both physicality and race, the latter of which is ABSOLUTELY ridiculous) to former LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell. Russell was also an athletic freak who was said to have been able to throw a football 65 yards down field… on his knees. Russell put together a 5-year career in Oakland, highlighted by lowlights, including abysmal quarterback play, win-loss record, and character issues. He is widely considered the biggest disappointment in NFL history.
In hindsight, I’m EXTREMELY glad I’m not an NFL scout. The Carolina Panthers, despite the overwhelming majority of people who wanted them to draft a surefire defensive stud in the draft, selected Cam Newton first overall. They didn’t even hesitate.
It took him a few years, but Cam Newton has silenced his critics and has become one of the top players — and poster children — of the NFL. He’s been labelled as “the LeBron James of the NFL” for his combination of size and speed. It’s allowed him to make plays like this:
And especially this:
Which allows him to do this:
And definitely this:
The Carolina Panthers are having a magical season. They’ve achieved their best record in franchise history at 15-1, and only the Denver Broncos stand in their way of winning their first ever Super Bowl. Panthers fans (especially hundred of children) are happy. This is an exciting, dynamic football team that resonates with their crowd and embodies what the spirit of the sport should be. In 5 years, the Carolina Panthers have been revitalized, and it’s mostly in part to Cam Newton and how he carries himself on the field.
He’s all smiles, and plays the game with a passion and intensity that few players do on a regular basis. He’s become one of the most marketable players, if not the most marketable player in the NFL.
Win or lose the Super Bowl, the Panthers have a bright future ahead of them with this guy leading the charge. But I hope we win.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot.
DAB ON ‘EM!!!