New beginning has Cam Newton looking back

The quarterback’s first two games back with the Panthers have offered opportunities for reminiscing

Quarterback Cam Newton is savoring every moment of his return to the Panthers. (Jacob Kupferman / AP Photo)

CHARLOTTE — Cam Newton’s return to the Carolina Panthers for a second go-round has given everyone plenty of opportunities to reminisce, including the franchise quarterback himself.

Last week, Newton played his first game in his second stint with the team and produced touchdowns the first two times he touched the ball — one running, one passing.


He took note of the site of the game — on the road at the Arizona Cardinals’ home stadium in Glendale.

“Man, God is good. I can tell you that,” he said. “It is something about the significance of today. Not only to return, this was the last college game that I played. … This was the stadium I played it at.”

Newton led the Auburn Tigers past Oregon in the BCS National Championship Game on that same field in January 2011, capping an undefeated campaign during his Heisman Trophy season.

“This was the first NFL game I played at,” he added, “and for me to come back to it. … God is working in my life right now.”

In September 2011, Newton led the Panthers past the Cardinals in the same venue, passing for 422 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another score on his way to winning NFL Rookie of the Year.

Now, just over a decade — and countless narratives — later, Newton was back in a Panthers uniform, scoring touchdowns in Glendale.

“I’ll tell you this,” he said. “In this morning’s devotion I was reading about Moses, and God spoke to Moses in the desert. … Where we at? The Red Sea. You know what I’m saying? Come on. You have the desert, obviously the Cardinals speak on the Red Sea.”

In his second game, Newton returned to another stadium where he’s had plenty of highlight moments. Making his first start at Bank of America Stadium since Sept. 12, 2019, 801 days earlier, Newton again produced two early touchdowns — one throwing and one running. After running the ball and finding the Charlotte end zone for the first time since Oct. 28, 2018, Newton ran to midfield and planted the ball on the Panthers logo at the 50-yard line.

“Today was a special day for me, for more reasons than one,” he said.

Newton was playing in front of the Charlotte fans for the first time in two years, and his former coach, Ron Rivera, was on the other sideline. But the day took him back to an even earlier time — when he was a promising college talent with an NFL future that was far from assured.

“It was my Resurrection Day,” he said. “Not that I am sure a lot of people know, Nov. 21st is a very special day for me. I took a big L in my life, I feel like. It was a big scar that ended up being my biggest star. I was incarcerated today. When I was in the University of Florida and this day is always significant of where I came from.”

On that day in 2008, Newton was charged with burglary, larceny and obstructing justice after allegedly stealing a laptop from a dorm room at Florida. Although the charges were later dropped, he was suspended from the team and had to spend a year at Blinn Junior College before getting another opportunity at big-time football with Auburn.

In 2017, on the anniversary of his Resurrection Day, Newton posted his old mug shots on Instagram, saying, “I thought my life and my career was over, and the fact that I had shamed my family with the media coverage surrounding this situation. I vowed to myself on this day (nine years ago) that I will be better from this situation.”

Newton wasn’t able to lead the Panthers to a victory Sunday, coming up short on a pair of potential game-winning drives in the final minutes of the game. While he was disappointed by the result — admitting that his conversation with Rivera was cut short because “Ain’t too much to say. I’m not in that warming mood right now, I’m not going to lie to you” — he wasn’t the same sullen, post-loss Cam he’s been in his previous life.

“I was just going to enjoy the moment,” he said. “Still am going to enjoy the moment. I think my life could be who knows where right now if the judge ruled, the way she did, he did, I’m not sure. Man, God had favor over my life, and that’s the big picture. The realization of things that you could control, you know, I am enjoying the moment and we just, I have to be better.”