Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton rose to the NFL spotlight when he led his team to an electric 15-1 season and to Super Bowl 50.
The 2010 Heisman Trophy winner completed 296 passes, 35 of them being touchdown passes, according to ESPN. Newton also ran the ball a total of 636 yards. Scrambling resulted in a career high of 56 first downs and 10 touchdowns this season, according to ESPN.
The Panthers lead the NFL with 771 net total yards, averaging 237.5 passing yards per game. Carolina also leads in rushing yards with 296 yards with 148 yards per game, according to ESPN.
The collection of wins was not the only thing Newton earned media attention for; Newton brought Dabbing, a hip-hop dance From Atlanta, into the scope of mainstream media. Newton would also give a touchdown football to children in the crowd, something he’s done since his rookie season.
His throwing accuracy and rushing capability thrusted the 6’5” quarterback into the national spotlight. This attention brought criticism because of his confidence, personality or race.
“I’m an African-American quarterback, that scares people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to,” Newton said.
As of 2014, Newton was one of the nine African American starting quarterbacks in the NFL, the highest number of African American quarterbacks in NFL history. The man who paved the way for African American Quarterbacks was James Harris. Former Washington Redskins player Doug Williams was the first African-American quarterback to lead his team to the Super Bowl and win in 1988. The Redskins defeated the Denver Broncos in a 42-10 bout, according to USA Today.
But Newton’s journey hasn’t been without setbacks. After signing with the University of Florida, Newton struggled to get playing time; he stood in the shadow of quarterback Tim Tebow. Newton also was arrested over charges from a stolen laptop, which were later dropped.
Newton left Florida in 2009 and attended Blinn Junior College in Texas. After throwing 2,833 yards, making 22 touchdown passes, rushing 655 yards, and running in 16 touchdowns, Blinn reached the 2009 NJCAA National Championship, according to Auburn Athletics. The 4-year NFL veteran committed to Auburn in 2010.
By the end of that season, Newton earned the Heisman Memorial Trophy, the Associated Press Player of the Year, AP SEC Offensive Player of the Year and the Davey O’Brien Award, a prestigious national quarterback award, according to the Davey O’Brien Foundation.
In 2011, Newton was the 1st overall draft pick and got drafted to the Carolina Panthers.