Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is on top of the football world right now. The Panthers are the only undefeated team in the NFC – two games ahead of any other team in the conference at 8-0. But it wasn’t too long ago that Newton’s world was crumbling, and he cited that time as a reason for his success today.
At his press conference on Wednesday, Newton brought up the infamous stolen laptop when he was a backup quarterback at Florida.
“When I talk to people, I try to make it personable, because if I can make it anybody can,” Newton said. “You’re talking about a person six or seven years removed from a stolen laptop – things that people don’t really want to talk about – a person that had to go to junior college. It’s athletes all in junior college right now asking, ‘Am I going to make it? Am I going to get a scholarship?’ But I did all of that, and look at who I am today. I’m not saying that to brag or boast. I’m saying that because somebody is listening to this right now and they’re in that situation right now where they may have had a mistake that happened, but that doesn’t necessarily describe who they are as a person. We all make mistakes. By yet, it’s all about how you rebound from that mistake instead of just giving up.”
Newton was arrested in 2008, charged with stealing a $1,700 laptop. The charges were later dropped when Newton completed a pretrial intervention program.
In 2009, Newton played for Blinn College, a junior college in Texas, before landing at Auburn, where he won the Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to the 2010 BCS national championship, then became the top pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Carolina coach Ron Rivera said one beneficial byproduct of the Panthers’ strong start is that players can share stories like Newton’s rather than spend their time answering questions about why the team isn’t winning.
“He made a bad decision,” Rivera said at his Thursday press conference. “He talks about it now. He goes out and talks to a group of young people and says, ‘Hey, I made a mistake, but look at where I am today.’ To me, that’s a great success story. Why? Because he learned from his mistake. We’re a country of second opportunities, and that’s all guys want is that opportunity to get a chance to succeed.”
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The Panthers will try to stay perfect when they visit the Tennessee Titans at noon CST Sunday. Tennessee is coming off a 34-28 overtime victory over the New Orleans Saints, one of Carolina’s NFC South rivals. That snapped a six-game losing streak. The Titans hadn’t won since taking their season-opener when they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, another NFC South team.
“Of course we have a big target on our chest and on our backs and everybody wants to be the team that beats the Carolina Panthers,” Newton said. “And that’s kind of how we’ve always wanted it. But that still won’t change our approach to the game. We’re still going to play hard-nosed football, protecting the football, running the football, tackling, getting good field position and special teams.”