The first football Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had really put everything into during this training camp sailed deep Thursday toward the waiting arms of tight end Greg Olsen, 50 yards away from where Newton had let it go.
Behind the fence at Wofford College, 11-year-old Parker Egeland and his 7-year-old brother, Noah, watched the ball fly. They cheered as Olsen caught it and ran into the end zone and Newton followed at a full sprint for a celebration.
Then Newton grabbed the ball from Olsen and looked around. He felt joyful after his first deep completion of camp on his surgically repaired right shoulder, and he was looking for a way to share the love. Newton made a beeline toward the fans and the fence, where he held the ball out to a thoroughly surprised Parker.
“It was amazing!” Parker said afterward.
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Parker is a rising seventh-grader at Kennedy Middle School in Charlotte and will turn 12 on Tuesday. “Happy birthday!” his mom, Holly Egeland, shouted, jumping up and down.
Ever since his rookie year, Newton has made a practice of giving away touchdown balls to children. He once let the Observer photograph him, in fact, with more than a dozen of the kids who have gotten a football from him over the years. It is rare that he gives away a practice TD ball, however. Five minutes after the event, Parker still seemed somewhat in shock.
“My legs are shaking,” he said. “Wow!”