(WGHP) — Cam Newton is one of the all-time heroes among Carolina Panthers’ fans, and his return to the team on Thursday – a veteran signing on Veterans Day – brought for at least a few moments a new roar in what so far has been a moribund season for the team.
Newton was cut by the Panthers in 2019 for cost-saving reasons during a rebuilding process after two injury-plagued seasons, but fans like to remember that he was the NFL’s most valuable player in 2015, when he led the Panthers to a 15-1 regular season and their second Super Bowl.
Since 2011, when he was drafted first overall after winning the Heisman Trophy at Auburn, he became an iconic athlete, a big (6 feet 5, 245 pounds) quarterback who could run as well as throw.
He played last season with the New England Patriots and was cut in this preseason after the Pats drafted Mac Jones No. 1 out of Alabama and amid a bit of a controversy about his unvaccinated status for COVID-19.
But his signing with the Panthers on Thursday morning immediately prompted a dive into history and 10 noteworthy memories about the player who wore No. 1 and often was called Superman.
1. Man on the run
Long known for his running, Newton by far holds the NFL record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, with 70 in 140 games. Second is former 49ers QB Steve Young, who had 43 in 169 games. A good trivia answer is No. 3 on that list: former vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp, who had 40 for Buffalo. Newton’s MVP season in 2015 produced 10 rushing touchdowns, which were the third-most (behind 14 in his rookie season of 2011 and 12 last season).
2. Yards work
He is second in career rushing yards by a quarterback, with 5,398. Former Atlanta QB Michael Vick has 6,109. Three times Newton has surpassed 700 yards rushing in a season, with 754 in 2017 being the most. Only two quarterbacks in the NFL last year head more yards than that (Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray).
3. Fourth and behind
Pro Football Reference credits Newton with 16 fourth-quarter comebacks and 20 game-winning drives in 21 different games. All but three of those games were with the Panthers (he had three game-winning drives for the Patriots).
4. Never too late
When the Panthers came within a whisker of going undefeated in 2015, Newton’s MVP resume included numerous spectacular plays and four game-winning drives in victories by a combined 18 points. In the last two of those (against New Orleans and the New York Giants), his passer rating was 122.1 and 116.9. Newton’s career passer rating is 85.8, which is tied for 42nd all-time. But that’s a better rating than Jim Kelly, Eli Manning, Roger Staubach and Sonny Jurgensen, all of whom are in or will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
5. Saints go marching out
On Dec. 6, 2015, the then-undefeated Panthers fell behind the Saints, 38-35, with 5:21 to play. Newton then directed an 11-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with a 15-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery, his fifth TD pass of the day, to keep the record perfect.
6. Through the air
Newton had 35 passing touchdowns that season, the most of his career. He has 190 career TD passes, which is 56th on the all-time list. But that’s more than the more renowned Otto Graham, Charlie Conerly, Joe Namath, Troy Aikman, Daryle Lamonica, Staubach and Bart Starr.
7. Still good to the end
In his final two seasons with the Panthers, Newton played only 16 games because of injuries, but two of them in 2018 were game-winning drives. On Oct. 21, 2018, the Panthers trailed the Eagles in Philadelphia, 17-0, when the fourth quarter began. The score was 17-6 with 4:08 to play, when Newton threw an 18-yard TD pass to Devin Funchess and then a 2-point conversion pass to Jarius Wright. Less than three minutes later, he passed 1 yard to Greg Olsen to culminate a 69-yard drive in 10 plays (including a fourth-down completion) to give the Panthers the victory.
8. On the other hand
In 2020 Newton caught two passes for the Patriots, for 35 yards and a touchdown. His only other catch was a 27-yard play in his rookie season.
9. Flipped season
In December 2014 Newton was transported to the hospital when his truck flipped several times after being struck by a car on a Tuesday afternoon about a block from Bank of America Stadium, where the Panthers play. He missed the following game but returned to lead the Panthers to victories in their final two games and the NFC South title, including a fourth-quarter, come-from-behind drive in the 17-13 victory over Cleveland in the season finale.
10. Number madness
Oh, and if you didn’t save that Newton No. 1 jersey for the Panthers – there were always among the league’s top-sellers – there are numerous versions available on the web. And in 2020 Newton’s No. 1 jersey with Patriots sold more than anyone other than Tom Brady (who moved to Tampa Bay) and MVP Patrick Mahomes.