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How Cam Newton got to the Super Bowl

Maya Hughes | 2/1/2016, 11:04 a.m.
A native of Atlanta, GA, Cam Newton attended Westlake High School, where he played for the Westlake Lions high school ...
Cam Newton

A native of Atlanta, GA, Cam Newton attended Westlake High School, where he played for the Westlake Lions high school football team. As a 16-year-old junior, he passed for 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns and ran for 638 yards and 9 touchdowns, gaining the attention of major college programs. His senior year he was rated a five-star prospect by Rivals.com, the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the nation, and the 28th player overall.

He later played college football at the University of Florida, Blinn College, and Auburn. Newton was drafted as the first overall pick by the Panthers in the 2011 NFL Draft. He is the only player in the modern era to, within a one-year span, to be awarded the Heisman Trophy, win a national championship, and become the first overall pick in an NFL Draft.

In his rookie year, Newton broke numerous rookie and all-time NFL records for passing and rushing yards. He became the first rookie quarterback to throw for 400 yards in his first game, shattering Peyton Manning’s first-game record by 120 yards. He also broke Otto Graham’s 61-year-old record for passing yards by any quarterback in an NFL debut.

Newton would go on to become the first rookie quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in a season, as well as the first rookie quarterback to rush for 700 yards. He also ran for 14 touchdowns, more in a single season than any quarterback in NFL history, breaking Steve Grogan’s 35-year-old record. He was the 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year.

Following his breakout rookie season, Newton struggled his sophomore season. He often faced criticism from critics and at the time from his own teammates for his lack of leadership on the field. He was often called immature for sulking on the sidelines after a team loss.

The Panthers finished 7-9 that season, missing the playoffs

Despite the questions surrounding Newton, the 2013 and 2014 season laid the groundwork for future success for the team. Newton led the Panthers to the playoffs for the first time in 2013 as they finished the regular season 12-4. The Panthers lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the wild-card round. Despite finishing just 5-8-1 in the 2014 season, the Panthers won the NFC South to reach the playoffs. They beat the Arizona Cardinals in the wild-card round before losing to the Seattle Seahawks.

Through the first 15 weeks of the 2015 NFL season, Newton led the Panthers to a 14–0 record. During that span, he also threw the second-most touchdown passes and led the NFL with 40 combined passing and rushing touchdowns. Newton had the second-lowest percentage of passing yards gained after the catch among NFL quarterbacks and 40 of Carolina's 49 touchdowns this season were either thrown or run by Newton.

In 2015, Newton became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 30 touchdowns and rush for 10 in the same season (35 passing, 10 rushing). He also became the only quarterback ever to have 300 yards passing, 5 touchdown passes, and over 100 yards rushing in the same game. In the final game of the 2015–16 season Newton tied Steve Young’s record for the most career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback—a record that Young set after 15 seasons in the NFL, compared to Newton's five. He was also named to the NFL All Pro First Team in 2015 and is the front-runner for the league’s MVP award. The Panthers ended their season with a 15-1 record. The only loss of the season was against the Atlanta Falcons in an away game.

After being in the league for only five years, Newton continues to change the face of how the quarterback position is played in the NFL. He will be the sixth African American quarterback to start in the Super Bowl. He follows Doug Williams (Redskins), Steve McNair (Titans), Donovan McNabb (Eagles), Colin Kaepernick (49ers), and Russell Wilson (Seahawks). Now, Newton has the opportunity to show the world what his team can do on a national platform. He also has a chance of being in the history books once again if he can lead the Panthers to their first Super Bowl ring.