When Carolina selected Cam Newton out of Auburn for their First Pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, I thought surely he'd be a bust of JaMarcus Russell proportions.
My best friend is a Panthers fan and we both were vastly upset at the apparent mistake we thought Carolina was making. With barely any college history behind him, this young man had somehow become the consensus No. 1 in the greatest football league in the world.
And then the season started.
In an event I refer to among my friends as C-Day, Newton took the field in his Carolina Panthers jersey at home against the Cardinals. It was September 11th, and when the games began I clearly remember the only game that was captivating my interest was Carolina's.
I cannot express the personal feelings of shock, surprise and pride I felt when the game ended.
Somehow, someway, Cam Newton, my ultimate bust draft pick, threw for 422 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 64 percent completion percentage and also rushed for a touchdown.
Suddenly, I was a Cam Newton fan.
This day, C-Day, was the first NFL record Cam Newton broke. With many greats behind him such as John Elway, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and even Joe Montana, Newton still somehow threw for more yards in his NFL debut than any quarterback in the history of the league.
And then the week after, he did it again. His threw for more yards in his first two games than any quarterback in history. He managed to break his own record of 422 yards with 435 against Green Bay.
At the moment of this writing, Cam Newton has broken 10 NFL records. He's also the sixth QB to throw for 400 yards in a game. That's all quarterbacks in the history of the league—and Cam managed to do it as a rookie. He's also the fourth rookie quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in a single season.
Newton has a bright future, and Carolina is set up to help him become an NFL MVP very soon.
One of the most important things in the world is first impressions.
At end of the season, Cam Newton's rookie campaign will go down in history as one of the most impressive ever for an NFL quarterback. I've already detailed the records he's currently broken, and he's on pace to break even more.
With 3,297 passing yards on the season already, Newton is averaging an established 275 yards per game. He is currently ninth among all active quarterbacks in most yards on the year, and eighth on yards-per-game average.
With four games left, if Newton puts up at least 250 yards per contest, he will end the year with 4,297 yards. This would shatter Manning's record rookie-year production, which was 3,739 yards total in 1998. Newton is doing himself a huge favor by associating himself with company like Manning.
Recently, he's also broken the record of rushing touchdowns by a QB with 13 last week.
If he averages another rushing touchdown per contest, he will separate himself from this former record with 17 on the year. This would put him one touchdown shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's record of 18 during his rookie campaign in 1983.
Cam Newton, a starting quarterback, is only two touchdowns from breaking the running back record of rushing touchdowns by a rookie. This, purely by itself, is an amazing feat; combined with his passing yards and Cam Newton can easily become the best dual-threat quarterback of all time.
Newton in the foreground, Smith in the backround.
While I have not always been a Cam Newton fan, I have always been a Steve Smith fan.
At the end of Smith's career, he potentially could be a Hall-of-Fame wide receiver, depending on how his last years play out. Drafted as a punt and kick returner, Smith fought an uphill battle to become one of Carolina's best wideouts in their short history.
He is one of the only two receivers (the other being Art Monk) to lead the NFL in receptions when his team rushed more times than it passed. In the same year, he also led all receivers in yards and touchdowns.
What does this mean for Newton?
While Smith is near the end of his career, aged 32, he has a couple of years left; the way his current season is going, he's been Newton's absolute favorite target.
In their first game together, Smith caught an unbelievable eight receptions for 178 yards and two touchdowns. At the time of this writing, Smith currently is third in reception yards with 1,092 on the year.
Every single great quarterback had an equally great receiver. Montana had Rice, Manning had Harrison, Brady had Moss, Warner had Bruce and Holt while in St. Louis, and when he moved to Arizona he had Fitzgerald.
The list goes on and on, and by teaming up with Smith, Newton has added himself to the list.
A common myth associated with Cam Newton disbelievers is that he's an interception machine.
Currently, he has 14 interceptions on the season compared to his 13 touchdowns. While those are certainly many interceptions, he does not lead the league in interceptions (Philip Rivers does) and he's only three interceptions above Drew Brees' 11 total.
The only difference between Cam Newton and Drew Brees is Brees' 30 touchdowns.
This is a humongous difference from Newton's 13. However, this shows that Newton easily can fix his interception problem. He's a rookie and makes rookie mistakes, but as his career progresses he only needs to throw slightly fewer interceptions and instead work on throwing more touchdowns.
The opportunity to will come in droves for Newton once Carolina upgrades its receiving corps in the upcoming years.
Right now, Newton has nothing to worry about as he's having an amazing rookie year. This coming offseason, however, Newton can work on establishing a better chemistry with his receiving corps so he can throw more touchdowns and fewer interceptions.
This year, they've also had to play against the stunning Green Bay Packers and the resurgent Detroit Lions.
Carolina is stunning on offense. They sit eighth in points per game (24.2) and fifth in total yards (397.6).
Carolina's main problem is defense.
They're allowing 27 points per game to their opposition (ranks 29th in the league), and an appalling 363 yards of total offense (21st). Carolina's defensive woes can be fixed in the years to come through draft and free agency.
Since their offense is both young and explosive (they only need to add more WRs in the coming years), they can focus future years on improving on their defense, while also retaining explosive offensive pieces like Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton.
One of the most important things about winning team MVP is having a good team. You cannot win NFL MVP and have a team with a losing record.
With Carolina on pace to start having winning seasons very soon, they can give Newton the eligibility he needs to win an MVP in the future.
Previous MVP winners all share one thing in common: They are electrifying on television.
Cam Newton is more than exciting to watch.
As a dual-threat quarterback, he's the definition of electric. Like Michael Vick and Steve Young, dual-threat quarterbacks captivate the viewers with their unorthodox play style. The anticipation when the play begins is immense: Will he run? Will he pass? What will Cam Newton do with the football?
Whether analysts, journalists and sportswriters want to admit it or not, being a popular NFL player is one of the most important aspects to being selected as MVP.
A high level of play is often paralleled with personal achievements and accolades, which is why every single MVP of the last 10 MVPs (maybe except Gannon) is a household name. With his play this year, Newton has elevated himself to be one of the most popular in the league.
He's interesting, and the controversy surrounding him has made him even more popular. A good following will help him break into the club of NFL MVPs.
In a recent interview, Ron Rivera compared Cam Newton's demeanor and attitude to HOF running back Walter Payton.
I've said it before in previous slides, but Newton continues to associate himself with amazingly great company.
While Newton's competitive attitude has also been criticized by teammates, it's clear that everybody on the Panthers team seems to feel that Cam Newton has a bright future and is dedicated to the game.
This a long shot from the controversy surrounding Newton in college, when character flaws were one of the main weaknesses he had coming into the draft.
Whatever Newton is now, in the coming years he will grow more mature and begin to lose his cutthroat demeanor. Years of playing at Carolina will give him team loyalty and pride, and he will begin to apply his ultra-competitive nature positively to the locker room in ways that separate the best players from the great players.
While looking for pictures for all of these slides another thing struck me: Newton's smiling in most of the pictures. Excluding in-game shots, Newton is smiling in four out of five of the pictures I've chosen.
This isn't an anomaly, either. Simply googling Cam Newton will reveal tons of shots where he has a smile across his face. One of the most important things associated with job performance is personal satisfaction and happiness.
The simple fact that Newton can have fun while playing the game he loves is reason enough to believe in Cam Newton:
"The only other player I've seen that has that kind of charisma or charm, in my opinion, was Walter Payton," said Rivera, who played with Payton on the Chicago Bears. "I think there's something about guys like that that are special. They love practicing, they love meeting, they love just coming here and being here.
"Walter was the same way. He just loved being at the facility, loved to practice, loved his teammates. Treats everybody with the same type of respect. They both have this attitude about losing—they hate losing. Everything they did was to win. They've always been winners...It's infectious."