With the Patriots unpredictably falling to a Manning-less Broncos team in Week 12, the Panthers now stand alone as the only undefeated team left as the season inches closer to the playoffs. At the helm is Cam Newton, with play that is silencing the doubters and reminding everyone why he was drafted first overall after winning the Heisman. Though Cam’s early seasons were never anything to be embarrassed about, many seemed to have difficulty reconciling his draft status with on-field performance. Now with 2015 delivering an undefeated Cam, the question now centers around what Cam’s secret success formula is this year.
Rookie Immaturity Woes
It may be hard to remember now, but freshly drafted Cam was a bit immature, albeit entertaining. Typically reserving his immaturity for press conferences, reports surfaced of Cam walking out of press rooms in the middle of taking questions and holding up the team bus with locker room sulking. Even harder to ignore was Cam’s sideline body language. In the face of defeat, Cam was as sullen and angst as a grounded teenager on the sidelines. His obvious display was highly criticized.
This version of Cam wouldn’t last though. He later admitted his immaturity was in poor form and that he needed to change. He rid himself of negative body language on the sidelines and in press conferences and routinely stood up for his team. Though he had always been team captain, he finally stepped up to become a true leader of his team. Cam acknowledged his weaknesses in an interview with Yahoo! Sports saying, “I was very immature. I’ll be the first one to tell you, the pouting and the moping, I kind of overdid it. I know that. I was a bad teammate.” It didn’t lead to a perfect season right away, but it marked a turning point.
The Start of a Turnaround
Following these remarks, the Panthers finished the 2013 season at an impressive 12-4 before ultimately losing to the 49er’s in the playoffs. This was followed up by an injury filled 2014 for Cam complete with a disappointing season of 7-8-1. Miraculously, the Panthers still saw playoff games, winning their wildcard game against the Cardinals before falling to the Seahawks.
The most miraculous part of 2014 for Cam wasn’t the Panther’s playoff appearance; in December, the quarterback was involved in a serious car accident in Charlotte which left his truck overturned and his back fractured. Cam’s message to fans following his accident was surprisingly exuberant. “I do not know where to begin…someone is supposed to be dead or severely injured worse than what I am right now!” He went onto encourage fans to, “…LIVE life to the fullness every day! LOVE the people who are close to you!” His statement went on, but it was clear that Cam was happy to be alive. Panther’s nation rejoiced.
Season of Success
Although Cam’s brush with death isn’t the only factor in his 180 degree attitude change, his new stance is clear. Smiling on the sidelines and while rushing for touchdowns, 2015 Cam is a man on a mission. The first four wins could have been easily brushed off. Facing teams like the Jaguars and Buccaneers, no one had betting odds yet on a perfect season. However, after methodically handing the Seahawks, Colts, and Packers their losses, the Panthers are looking like a championship team.
Though undeniable factors like Luke Kuechly on defense and Cam’s dual-threat ability as a runner on the field have contributed to the Panther’s success, Cam’s attitude has been transformed. He’s stepped into a true leadership role and proven that he wasn’t a wasted first round draft pick. Only time will tell if the remaining weeks will bring a Panther’s loss but a takedown won’t come easy.