With a $103.8 million contract extension, Cam Newton could do just about anything he wanted for vacation.
But on Friday, much like a decent chunk of the summer, the Carolina Panthers’ franchise quarterback was on a high school field hosting a 7-on-7 tournament.
The second annual 7-on-7 championship hosted by his foundation is this weekend at Nation Ford High. While Newton has been able to get away some this offseason, he’s spent five weekends since Memorial Day with hundreds of high school football players at his tournaments.
Isn’t it good sometimes to just get away from football, though?
“To a degree,” Newton said Friday, less than three weeks from the start of Panthers training camp in Spartanburg. “But it just depends. Some people like work and enjoy doing what they do. And they don’t consider what some may consider work. It’s just a passion. It’s something that I’ve always had the passion and will to do. I don’t look at it as work. I look at it as, this is my off time and what better to do than to give back.”
This weekend is the culmination of two months worth of tournaments in four different states. Qualifying teams from two Atlanta 7-on-7 tournaments, one Charlotte tournament and one in Alabama descended on Nation Ford. One will be crowned as the foundation’s champion on Saturday.
On Thursday, Newton hosted the 400-some players on a trip to Carowinds. The foundation paid for buses and overnight stays for out-of-town teams. They planned to go bowling on Montford Drive on Friday night before championship Saturday.
“Anytime I can become a beneficiary to somebody else, that’s my main purpose. For me, football is my life,” Newton said. “It’s what I’ve done. It’s what I’ve been doing for so long that when I see kids like this that are hungry and yearning just to dream and hoping for an opportunity, and if they do right by themselves and listen to coaching, they can do it. I’m just trying to be an outlet, a resource, for these kids and be there if need be.”
Since the start of the Panthers’ organized team activities and minicamp, Newton has spent most of his free weekends at either his tournaments or a tournament at IMG Academy in Florida.
Last week he went to Australia as part of a Gatorade player exchange program, learning from the Richmond Tigers about Australian Rules Football.
Newton admitted he’s not the best at “footy” and plans to stick to American football, but he brought back tips from the players on preparation and work ethic.
Last season, Newton funded a three-day trip to Greensboro for about a dozen teammates to train at receivers coach Ricky Proehl’s facility before training camp. That was also when Newton was working with a reworked receiving corps.
While the hope was to return to Greensboro for another training session, a team source said that’s unlikely this summer. A source close to Newton indicated he will travel next week to Baltimore to train at Under Armour’s facilities.
Before that, he will host the 15 teams, including two from North Carolina (Hough and South Mecklenburg). Friday he danced, sang, challenged players to throwing matches and stayed focused on games being played on either side of the field.
“That boy is going to be special,” Newton said of one player after he made a touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone.
Newton’s participation didn’t go unnoticed by the coaches at the tournament.
“I got coaches that wanted to come today so they could see Cam Newton,” Dorman (S.C.) coach Dave Gutshall said. “He has a personality where everyone likes him. In fact he’s a big kid sometimes. It’s great. Obviously he’s a superstar in the NFL, and it means a lot for the kids to be here.”
Said Newton: “I’m just trying to give back to these kids. I’m trying to take the Panthers to the Super Bowl. In any way, shape, form or fashion I’m trying to make myself a better person and better player by the day.”
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