Cam Newton and his family celebrated Monday’s victory against New England at the Waffle House.
I don’t know why I like this, but I like it.
Newton got to bed at 4 a.m. When he woke up Tuesday he felt sore. He also felt good about Carolina’s 24-20 victory and about how he would spend the day.
Instead of a Wilson football in his right hand, Newton carried a microphone. He rarely walked across the stage at Collinswood Language Academy. He stepped, slid, danced and moved.
He rarely talked to the middle school students from Collinswood, Reid Park Academy and Berryhill School. He challenged, implored, danced and laughed. He had the students dancing, laughing and listening.
Newton had the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system saying thanks. The Cam Newton Foundation donated $75,000 Tuesday –$25,000 to each of the three schools. In two years his foundation has donated $225,000 to six schools.
After the presentation Newton asked students if they wanted to see the principals of their schools dance. Of course they did. The principals danced. Newton began talking and theatrically stopped and asked who wanted to see Dr. Heath Morrison, superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, dance.
You know everybody did. Newton sat in the front row for a better view. So Morrison danced and, I must say, danced well.
“When I was in school I never could tease my teachers,” says Newton.
You made them seem human.
“I wanted people to see me as well,” says Newton. “And you know a lot of times when I speak it’s, ‘Oh, Cam’s just a figure,’ or, ‘He’s become untouchable.’ I wanted people to hear my voice.”
Adds Newton, who is 24: “I wanted them to see me kid around with the teachers and with the kids as well. I’m not too far removed from where (the kids) are. You never get to see your teachers dance, your principal dance, and you just have fun doing it and that’s what (Tuesday) was really about – an opportunity.”
Monday was an opportunity. It was an opportunity for the Panthers to prove they could beat a glamour opponent in prime time and for Newton to show he has evolved. He led long drives, threw three touchdown passes and, on one scramble, beat six defenders with an array of moves that would enhance any dance floor. On the run he picked up 14 yards and a first down and kept a drive alive.
You see the replay?
“I saw it once on the postgame show,” says Newton.
What did you see?
“Um, it was just a glimpse,” he says. “I haven’t really taken it in yet. It was a play that was a staple in the drive that we needed to score.”
Man, don’t go humble on us. You will watch it.
“Yeah, I will,” Newton says.
After the kids leave, Newton meets with the media in a music room amid copies of “Accent on Ensemble.”
The Panthers are nothing if not an ensemble.
We walk across the hall to a little room and talk for a few minutes one-on-one.
The crowd at Bank of America Stadium Monday was loud, proud and amazing. You notice?
“I did, I did,” says Newton. “And it’s weird to say but I always ask the core people in the organization how was it in 2003 (Carolina’s Super Bowl season) or when we went to the playoffs in 2008. Ever since I’ve been here it’s always been somewhat of a kind of straddle-the-fence fan. You know, if you’re winning (people say) ‘I’ve been a Carolina Panther fan since Jake Delhomme, since coach (John) Fox.’ That’s what you like to hear.
“I don’t like when you come into the stadium and see Redskins jerseys, Cowboy jerseys. But (Monday) night I saw a whole stadium full of black, and screaming fans, and it was great.”
Newton’s older brother, Cecil Jr., sat in the crowd and delivered a report.
Says Newton: “He said, ‘Man, I have never seen a stadium that excited.’ And for me to be somewhat the impact of that it was great.”
Monday was great for Charlotte and Tuesday was great for three Charlotte middle schools.
Talking about his team and his foundation Newton says: “This is just, I hope, a tablespoon of what’s to come.”
Sorensen: 704-358-5119; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @tomsorensen
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