On a day when he won the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award for the fourth time in his career, an introspective Cam Newton talked more about the Carolina Panthers’ team accomplishments – and also brought up his arrest for stealing a laptop in college.
Newton, Carolina’s fifth-year quarterback, mentioned the laptop incident at Florida in the context of his hope that his perseverance can serve as inspiration to others.
Newton said when he talks to student groups or other young people, he tells them if he can make it to the NFL anybody can.
“You’re talking about a person, what, six or seven years removed from a stolen laptop, things that people don’t really want to talk about,” Newton said Wednesday. “A person that had to go to junior college. There’s athletes in junior college right now asking, ‘Am I going to make it? Am I going to get a scholarship?’
We all make mistakes. But yet it’s all about how you rebound from that mistake rather than giving up.
Cam Newton, after winning NFC Offensive Player of the Week
“But I did all that and look at who I am today. I’m not saying that to brag or boast. ... We all make mistakes. But yet it’s all about how you rebound from that mistake rather than giving up.”
Newton was arrested by University of Florida police in 2008 for stealing a $1,700 laptop, which he threw out his dorm window when officers arrived. The charges were later dropped when Newton completed a pretrial intervention program.
In 2009 Newton transferred to Blinn (Texas) College, where he won a national junior college championship before winning another national title at Auburn.
After back-to-back losing seasons at the start of his NFL career, Newton helped lead the Panthers to their first consecutive playoff berths in 2013 and ’14.
This year he has the Panthers (8-0) off to the best start in franchise history as they prepare to face Tennessee (2-6) on Sunday in Nashville.
Of course we have a big target on our chest and on our backs and everybody wants to be the team that beats the Carolina Panthers.
Quarterback Cam Newton, on his 8-0 team
“Of course we have a big target on our chest and on our backs and everybody wants to be the team that beats the Carolina Panthers,” Newton said. “And that’s kind of how we’ve always wanted it. But that still won’t change our approach to the game.
“We’re still going to play hard-nosed football, protecting the football, running the football, tackling, getting good field position and special teams.”
Newton became the first Carolina player to win four Player of the Week awards after passing for 297 yards and three touchdowns and running for another score in a 37-29 win against Green Bay.
But Newton shrugged off the honor, suggesting neither he nor the Panthers played a complete game against the Packers.
“When you go a couple series three-and-out’s, throwing an interception late, that’s just a (sign) of not having that killer instinct yet,” Newton said. “You practice to get it and hopefully we start showing signs of that these upcoming games.”
Newton’s 1-yard touchdown run came when he reached the ball across the goal line with one hand, the second time in recent weeks he’s scored in that fashion. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he addressed those plays with Newton earlier this week.
“Some people think it’s risky. I call it scoring,” Newton said.
Newton said he talks with the running backs about breaking the “imaginary wall” extending up from the goal line – “come hell or high water” – while still maintaining control of the ball.
“That’s six points rather than three points with it coming off somebody’s foot,” Newton said. “I’ll take that risk every single time.”
Some people think it’s risky. I call it scoring.
Cam Newton, on stretching the ball over the goal line on Sunday against Green Bay
The Packers’ game marked the 15th time Newton has had at least two touchdown passes and one rushing score in a game. He joined Hall of Famers Steve Young (17) and Fran Tarkenton (16) as the only players with at least 15 such games.
Newton’s 38 career rushing touchdowns trail only Young’s 43 among quarterbacks since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
Tennessee outside linebacker Brian Orakpo said Newton has become a better pocket passer over his career, but still is a tough matchup when he decides to run.
“He’s getting the ball to his receivers and those receivers are making plays,” Orakpo said. “And then in the red zone it seems like he wants the ball in his hands so he can make something happen. And he’s a very big guy to bring down, so we’re going to have a tough task on our hands.”