The Carolina Panthers have embraced all of what Cam Newton can do. Now they’re waiting for the wins to start piling up, as they did last year when Newton led Auburn University to an undefeated season and the national championship.
Newton returns home today to face the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome -- not far from where he grew up in College Park, Ga., and later arrived on the national stage at Auburn.
When asked if he’s been bombarded with ticket requests for his return home, Newton simply smiled and said, “StubHub.”
Newton’s popularity has skyrocketed after an incredible first month of the season in which he was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for September.
In five games he’s had a hand in 12 of the team’s 13 touchdowns -- seven passing and five rushing -- and ignited an offense that only found the end zone 16 times all of 2010.
As Auburn discovered last season, the possibilities are limitless for the team that has Newton. The Panthers have installed a Wildcat formation with Newton at wide receiver and last week unveiled an option package with him pulling trigger.
The atmosphere should be electric in the Georgia Dome, where Newton led the Tigers to a victory in the SEC championship game last season.
But Newton downplayed the homecoming, saying he has more important things on his mind -- like winning.
“We’re real close, but close doesn’t get you nowhere,” Newton said, referring to the Panthers’ 1-4 start despite being in each game until the end. “And that’s probably the most disheartening thing, knowing how close we are to getting that win and putting us back on the map. Emotionally, I think we just need a win to hang our hat on, to say we beat this team.”
The Falcons, a popular preseason Super Bowl pick that fell to 2-3 last week with a loss to the Packers, need a win, too.
The rookie quarterback who has taken the NFL by storm since his first game, not only put up record numbers passing, but also has been the Panthers’ primary weapon in the red zone. He has rushed for five of the team’s six touchdowns, leaving him one shy of Chris Weinke’s single-season franchise record.