Is Cam Newton The Real Thing?

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 18: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers reacts to a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

If you're a subscriber to Sports Illustrated, be prepared for an article by Tim Layden in this week's issue that will discuss Cam Newton's time spent at the IMG Academy and the first two games of his NFL career, and how he has -- through hard work and determination -- made an amazing transition from the college game to the NFL game.

Thanks to the kind folks at SI, I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at the Newton article that will roll out in this week's issue of the magazine, and I must say that if you're not a subscriber, this is an issue that you might want to pick up at your local newsstand or download to your mobile device.

In the brilliantly-written article, Layden covers Cam's progress after being drafted by the Panthers at #1 overall through his time at IMG with Chris Weinke, and provides some analysis of Cam's performance in his first two games against Arizona and Green Bay. Let's take a closer look at some of the nuggets that Layden provides in the article after the jump.

Out of respect for both Layden and Sports Illustrated, I'm not going to do a direct copy and paste of the entire article, but I am going to share a few thoughts from the piece that I found very interesting.

The first thing I want to bring to your attention is from Newton's time with Chris Weinke at the IMG Academy. According to Layden (emphasis mine):

On one of their first days together Weinke challenged Newton. Like most football fans, he had viewed the ESPN session in which former NFL coach Jon Gruden tells Newton that NFL play-calling language can be overwhelming and says to him, "Call something at Auburn that’s a little verbal...Give me something. What’s an Auburn play sound like?"

Newton stammered that Gruden was putting him on the spot and could come up with nothing more complex than "Thirty-six." (Author's note: We all remember this, and most people have come to the realization that Gruden practically threw Cam under the bus.)

So after Newton had stud­ied the Carolina playbook for a few days, Weinke sent him to a whiteboard and asked him to repeat, and draw up, the follow­ing play: Deuce right (formation), Nasty fly (motion), Scat right (protection), Spray 834 (the route tree, in the Coryell "digit" system), Y pivot (tagging the Y receiver with an additional move), H swing M (also tagging the H-back).

According to Weinke, Newton repeated the play flawlessly and drew it cleanly on the board. "I wanted to see what he was capable of learn­ing," says Weinke. "And there was no question that he had studied that playbook. It was unbelievable. I had seen the Gruden thing, so I was shocked at what he could actually do — pleasantly so."

Notice the line that is in bold print. Newton repeated the play...flawlessly. Not "he did okay for a kid that's never played in the NFL"...flawlessly. Perfect. No mistakes. 100% correct.

There's only one word to describe it: amazing.

The lessons that Cam learned at IMG also translated on the field, as we learned from Layden, who spoke to Panthers center Ryan Kalil after the game in Arizona (again, emphasis mine):

"There were at least two times where I made a protection call and he changed it," says [Ryan] Kalil. "Basically he said, ‘No, they’re coming from over here.’ And both times he was right. Hey, I saw the Gruden thing too. I wondered what he could handle. But we got both of those blitzes blocked in Arizona."

Think about this. On two separate occasions, Newton changed the protection at the line of scrimmage because he saw something Kalil didn't see, and both times he was right in changing the call. Remember, this is his first career start, and he's already seeing things in the defense that a 4 year veteran, Pro Bowl center isn't seeing. Again, there's only one word to describe it: amazing.

One of my favorite parts from the article is the quote from coach Ron Rivera in response to a question about Newton's disposition after the loss to Arizona. 

Coach Rivera (again, emphasis mine):

"He was hurting on Monday ... My message was, 'Get over it and move ahead'. And before he left the building that afternoon, he watched the Arizona tape and then took Green Bay tape home with him. He came back on Tuesday and studied more Green Bay, and by the time everybody else came back on Wednesday, he was himself again."

Two things here: 1) he took Green Bay tape home with him. He didn't leave it at the office...he took it home. Who does that, seriously? 2) He showed up on his day off and watched more film. He could have taken Tuesday off like everyone else, and recovered from the opening game, but he didn't. He came in and did the work necessary to prepare himself for his next game.

This is something that can't be taught. This is nothing but Capital-D Desire, and it's something that Cam has within him, because he wants to be the best he can be for this football team. He wants to win.

Don't believe me? Then perhaps you'll believe Cam, because he said it himself:

"The more I see it, the more I know it’s not college no more," he says. "But I’m gonna get it...It’s not competing. I don’t like that word, competing. You don’t go into the game to compete. You go into each game to win."

This is our franchise quarterback, Panthers fans.  This is the man who will lead the Panthers on the field for at least the next five years, and possibly for the next fifteen. If this is the approach he's taken in just his first year in the league with no OTA's and limited training camp, just imagine what he's going to be like when he has a normal full off-season to work on the finer points of his game.

[I'll give you a moment to let that sink in.]

Is Cam Newton the real thing? Tim Layden seems to think so, and even if I were to peel away my Panther fandom and look at this from an objective point of view, I'd still say that I agree with him. We've got something special here in Carolina, and this is only the beginning of what projects to be one heck of a fun ride.

Author's note: Once again, be sure to check out the full article in this week's edition of Sports Illustrated, as it's definitely worth the read. And, thanks to Sports Illustrated for allowing me the privilege to have a sneak peek at this article. It was much appreciated.

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