By Sterling Eby
I used to hate you. Hate isn’t a strong enough word. I despised you. I couldn’t stand watching you play. Growing up a Panthers fan, when the Panthers had the first overall pick in the draft in 2011, I was praying they didn’t draft you.
I heard all of your stories and all of your critic’s stories about you. You had an ego. You stole laptops at Florida. You were paid to play at Auburn. The list never ends.
Needless to say, the Carolina Panthers drafted you.
Before the season even started I wasn’t happy. I’m on record even tweeting this:
(Not one of my proudest tweets)
Your rookie season, while it was phenomenal, was riddled with mistakes. There were times when your leadership was questioned. There were times where it would seem that you were pouting on the sidelines. It didn’t sit well with fans. It didn’t sit well with me.
As time passed, you grew right before our eyes. We started hearing all these phenomenal stories about the amazing charity work you started doing. All the amazing work you started doing with kids. Once again, the list never ends.
All the while, the criticism against you never stopped. People still had something to complain about.
The day where I saw you make your transformation into a full fledged team leader was Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014. This was a game that you didn’t play, inactive due to injury.
While under a TV timeout, you ran on to the field into the offensive huddle and pumped the team up. Completely against the rules, but true leadership.
Even after sending the Panthers to back-to-back NFC South Championships, still nobody believed in us.
The second that Kelvin Benjamin went down with an injury, nobody believed in us.
You never changed your identity. You stayed true to yourself. You have always been Cam Newton.
You brought joy to the Carolinas this season. Nobody in the NFL thought we would do anything this year and we shocked the world. We were disrespected the entire year, and we left them in the dust.
The excuses never ended. You didn’t complete enough passes. Our schedule was easy. We didn’t play any winning teams. We didn’t close out games. Everybody was against us. Everybody was against you.
You guys never gave up even though everything was stacked against us. We got to our second Super Bowl, and we just hit a wall. It happens. It’s disappointing.
My problem is the media.
I’m so disappointed in how the media treats you. It’s absolutely disgusting.
Could you have handled yourself more professionally at the post-game press conference at the Super Bowl? Probably.
I’ve never been in a position where I failed in front of a national audience of 120,000,000 people watching at home. I can’t judge your actions.
The media wants to portray your actions against the best of all-time in Peyton Manning. They compare your sportsmanship to Russell Wilson. They compare your effort to Drew Brees.
Just stop with the comparisons.
Cam Newton isn’t Peyton Manning. He’ll never be Russell Wilson. He’ll never know what it’s like to be Drew Brees. He’s Cam Newton.
Cam Newton plays with a passion. He plays with his emotions on his sleeve. It can be good, it can be bad. As a Panthers fan, we know this and expect this. We LOVE this.
Cam Newton doesn’t owe anybody an apology.
This is the same media asking him “why are you wearing socks with sandals.” This was days prior to the Super Bowl.
Fast forward to a few days later, and this same media is upset that he didn’t answer their questions to the best of his ability. It sure makes a great story for you media members though!
He was sulking. I’m sorry, is he supposed to be happy that he just lost the biggest game of his career?
It’s reached a point where you start to realize the criticism will never end. 8 years later and we are still hearing stories about laptops. You’re never gonna change everybody’s opinions of you.
However, you completely changed mine.
“I’ve been on record to say I’m a sore loser. Who likes to lose? You show me a good loser, and I’m going to show you a loser. It’s not a popularity contest. I’m here to win football games for this organization.” – Cam Newton
Every Panthers fan is 100% behind you, Cam. Not only do we believe in you, we respect you. You’ve always stayed true to us. No matter what, win or lose, you’ve always been Cam Newton.