Carolina Panther Cam Newton agreed to a quirky Q&A Friday after speaking at the Boy Scouts of America Values Luncheon in Birmingham, Ala., and the queries revealed some little-known details of his development as a star athlete.
For instance, where he came up with the tradition of giving footballs to children after touchdowns.
Newton says the idea was born in his rookie year, after he was chastised by former offensive coordinator Mike Shula for being a show off.
“Going into the NFL, one of the biggest things that I was probably more excited about was celebrating...and not getting in trouble for it,” Newton told the crowd. “So I would go on YouTube, you know, and try to find ways to say, this is what I’m doing to do when I score my touched downs. So that year, I was able to score a couple of touchdowns and Coach Shula would kind of frown upon the fact that I was bringing more attention to myself and not the team.”
Newton says his reasoning at the time was that NFL fans “pay to see entertainment after you score.”
But Shula didn’t buy it, he said.
“I asked him: ‘Coach, what else do you want me to do?’” recalled Newton. “He said: ‘Next time you score, I want you to find a kid in the front road and hand them the football’.”
Newton agreed to try it, but admits he forgot when the next touchdown came during a game with Washington. Shula quickly reminded him, however.
“In the NFL, you can hear your coaches in your headset...All I kept hearing was: ‘Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah,” Newton said, laughing. “So...I grabbed the ball and made eye contact with a kid in the front row. And it was as if we knew each other forever. I handed him the football and it was the most priceless moment I could put my finger on up to that moment...Giving a child or a kid a football...is something you will cherish for your whole professional career. I’ve seen kids cry.”
The team has since named that traditional, he says: “We call it the Sunday giveaway.”
Newton has strong ties to Alabama, as a former Auburn quarterback. He was joined on stage at the Boy Scout Values Luncheon by Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn and former Auburn player Quentin Riggins.
Among the other revelations Newton made at the event: He has never been camping; the only one of his former coaches he stays in contact with regularly is Malzahn; and he gives a lot of credit to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for helping him through times of trouble in his pre-NFL days.