Cam Newton threw for more yards than any rookie in NFL history in 2011, breaking the mark set by Peyton Manning (3,739 yards) back in 1998 by throwing for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns. Despite the Carolina Panthers’ limited success in the win column, Newton easily won AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
The No. 1 overall pick last year was criticized extensively heading into the 2011 draft, with most of his critics writing and saying that the former Auburn Tigers product would not be able to hack it at the quarterback position at the next level. He took everything in stride and had one of the most jaw dropping performances debuting as a rookie quarterback in Week 1 of the season by throwing for 422 yards against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Carolina Panthers have a special player on their hands folks. No.1 is the leader of the Panthers and one of the new faces of the NFL in the upcoming years at the quarterback position.
[Editor’s Note: This interview took place before Cam Newton was named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year]
Cam Newton joined WFAN in New York with Boomer and Carton to discuss throwing for 400 yards in his first NFL game, his first NFL moment, Steve Smith testing him early on as a rookie in training camp, throwing for 400 yards in the first two weeks of the NFL season, defensive backs in the NFL being far better than he expected and the improvements he needs to make this off-season.
In the first game of your NFL career you throw for 400 yards. Did you know it would be that easy?
“It wasn’t easy. That’s the name of this game. The NFL: It’s never going to be easy. Even throughout the latter part of the season I was trying to get the hang of things, but there were still things I had questions about, but I stood through it all and got the job done.”
That first time the ball gets snapped to you in the NFL, what’s that moment like?
“That play call is kind of jittery coming out of your mouth. You are stuttering a little bit. My NFL moment hit me when the star spangled banner was being sung. [Craig Carton: What was that like?] It was unbelievable just having each team, the formal thing to do, every body lines up on that line and put your hands over your heart, just showing patriotism to the country. For me to take a mental snapshot is just unbelievable.”
Did Steve Smith test you early on?
“I just went to the Pro Bowl this past week and he was still testing me. How about that? [Craig Carton: Give me an example of how Steve Smith would test a kid like you?] Alright Smitty is very egotistical. Just like an elite quarterback in this league or any wide receiver in this league. It’s like when he doesn’t get the ball he puts on a fit. This guy is like 32-years old, but you gotta get him the football because if you do not get him the football it will be known. He expects the ball and every single time the ball is in his vicinity you could guarantee he is going to expect it.”
Could you believe you threw for 400 yards again in Week 2?
“I have never had that thought to say: ‘Boom. I proved everybody wrong.’ I threw for 400 [yards]. That was merely sold on why we were losing the football game. Even though those stats and accolades are fine and dandy for a rookie coming in throwing for ‘X’ amount of yards, but at the end of the day ‘Why do we really play this game?’ Both of those games were in hand games. We played the Green Bay Packers defense and we had them down by 14 points and it’s like man how do we give up this lead? Then we had a 7-point lead on Arizona, so looking back on those games now – I am looking and how do I get better next year if that opportunity presents itself again and I turned the ball over numerous times in both of those games and I can’t do that.”
What did you learn about the NFL this year that there was no way you could be prepared for it?
“Defensive backs are as like wide receivers as anybody else. In college you can get away with it. You could throw it into coverage and you could get that defensive back that’s very athletic, but can’t catch. The second game of the season that defensive back for me was Charles Woodson. He picked it off man…three interceptions? I’m like golly the same guy! [Boomer Esiason: Did he come up to you at the end of the game?] I told him before the game: ‘Look Charles…Take it easy on me today.’ You know how smooth Charles is man and I had met him previously before the season and he’s a real, real cool guy. Right before the game man he just has this presence out there as corners play. They just out there as if nobody else is out there and he look so nonchalant. Here I go trying to throw to a receiver and picked! I’m like oh my god. I come back second quarter and picked! I’m like oh my god. We try that route again and I throw another pick! I was like oh my god what I am doing!”
What do you have to get better at next season to become the Tom Brady of the Carolina Panthers?
“Well first off it’s a big, big plus in my book to have the same offensive coordinator. I look back at my career for the past five years I’ve learned five different systems under five different philosophies. I went to Florida. Blinn College. Auburn. Now Carolina. This is going to be the first time I think in my whole career where I have the same system back-to-back each year, but for me moving forward and for the Carolina Panthers to make that next step? I think as a team we gotta learn how to finish games. You look at the Giants and the Patriots. The Patriots are a perfect example of a team that knows how to finish opponents. When they have them down going into halftime let’s say, 24-10, they finish those games like 42-17. They finish games. Me personally? Looking in the mirror and giving myself something to work is just protecting the football. Looking at Tom Brady’s game play that I try to mimic myself after? He does an excellent job protecting the football. You don’t see the errant throws. He takes what the defense gives him. He’s not afraid to take two or three or four yard completions, which later in the game those turn into 44-yard completions, the 50-yarders, the 30-yarders. The chunks and bunches.”