Newton thriving one year after frightening automobile accident

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
Boomer: Why Cam Newton Is So Polarizing


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Cam Newton hasn't forgotten about the frightening automobile accident one year ago that caused his pickup truck to flip near a highway overpass. It left him hospitalized with two broken bones in his lower back and wondering how he survived.

He reminds himself of the accident so that he doesn't forget it.

The Carolina Panthers quarterback still wears the hospital bracelet he received on Dec. 9, 2014, on his left wrist as a reminder to embrace life and all of its challenges. He even sent it off recently to have it engraved with the words "never forget your journey."

Newton said Wednesday on the anniversary of the accident that it stands as a humbling reminder of what his father Cecil regularly told him as a kid: "One day you can be on the top of the world, and the next day the world can be on top of you.'"

Right now Newton and the Panthers are on top of the NFL world.

UPDATED NFL RANKINGS:

33 PHOTOS
NFL power rankings - 12/8
See Gallery
Newton thriving one year after frightening automobile accident

32. Cleveland Browns (2-10)

Last week: 32

(AP Photo/David Richard)

31. San Diego Chargers (3-9)

Last week: 28

(AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

30. San Francisco 49ers (4-8)

Last week: 30

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

29. Tennessee Titans (3-9)

Last week: 31

(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

28. New Orleans Saints (4-8)

Last week: 29

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

27. Baltimore Ravens (4-8)

Last week: 26

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

26. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8)

Last week: 23

(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

25. St. Louis Rams (4-8)

Last week: 25

(AP Photo/Billy Hurst)

24. Miami Dolphins (5-7)

Last week: 27

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

23. Chicago Bears (5-7)

Last week: 20

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

22. Oakland Raiders (5-7)

Last week: 19

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

21. Detroit Lions (4-8)

Last week: 21

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

20. Washington Redskins (5-7)

Last week: 15

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

19. Dallas Cowboys (4-8)

Last week: 22

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

18. New York Giants (5-7)

Last week: 17

(AP Photo/Peter Morgan)

17. Indianapolis Colts (6-6)

Last week: 12

(AP Photo/Fred Vuich)

16. Buffalo Bills (6-6)

Last week 16

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

15. Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)

Last week: 24

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6)

Last week: 18

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

13. Houston Texans (6-6)

Last week: 11

(AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

12. Atlanta Falcons (6-6)

Last week: 13

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

11. New York Jets (7-5)

Last week: 14

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

10. Green Bay Packers (7-5)

Last week: 9

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

9. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)

Last week: 10

(AP Photo/Don Wright)

8. Minnesota Vikings (8-4)

Last week: 6

(AP Photo/Butch Dill)

7. Kansas City Chiefs (7-5)

Last week: 8

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

6. Seattle Seahawks (7-5)

Last week: 7

(AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

5. New England Patriots (10-2)

Last week: 2

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

4. Cincinnati Bengals (10-2)

Last week: 5

(AP Photo/David Richard)

3. Arizona Cardinals (10-2)

Last week: 4

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

2. Denver Broncos (10-2)

Last week: 3

(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

1. Carolina Panthers (12-0)

Last week: 1

(AP Photo/Bill Feig)

of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

They have the league's best record at 12-0, have won a franchise-record 16 straight regular season games and can wrap up a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs with a win Sunday at home against the Atlanta Falcons (6-6).

The Panthers haven't lost a regular season game since Newton's accident, their only blemish coming in a divisional playoff loss at Seattle last January.

Newton is a leading candidate to win his first Most Valuable Player award, already having thrown for a career-high 25 touchdown passes and run for seven more.

"At the end of the day things worked out well," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "It helped heighten some awareness for him."

When Newton's was hit by another car a few blocks from the team's stadium sending his truck flipping across a highway overpass it sent immediate shockwaves through the organization.

The front office scrambled for information.

His teammates, who had the day off, found out through Twitter and text messages, and dozens of them rushed to Carolinas Medical Center to check on Charlotte's biggest sports star.

Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., then with the Arizona Cardinals, heard the news, stopped what he was doing and prayed.

"At that point you're worried about Cam Newton the person, not Cam Newton the player," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said.

Rivera watched the drama play out on television where cameras showed the former No. 1 overall pick on the side of the road a few feet from his mangled truck, being attended to by paramedics.

The fifth-year coach was concerned until he saw the quarterback's smile.

"I saw those pearly whites and I thought to myself he was going to be OK," Rivera said. "... He hadn't lost his personality."

Hundreds of friends, former teammates and coaches reached out to Newton that night at the hospital, including Gus Malzahn, his former offensive coordinator at Auburn.

"I was just so glad he was OK," Malzahn said recalling the moment. "It was a very scary deal."

Newton's parents made the trip to Charlotte to take care of their son.

In the days following the accident he received texts some close to him reminding him to "never take anything for granted."

Newton said he has taken that to heart.

"Just a simple I love you, a simple appreciation to the next person, that goes a long way," Newton said.

26 PHOTOS
Cam Newton through his career
See Gallery
Newton thriving one year after frightening automobile accident
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton helps fire up his team prior to the start of the fourth quarter against Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Friday, November 26, 2010. The energy served his team well as Auburn rallied to defeat Alabama, 28-27. (Photo by Robin Trimarchi/Columbus Ledger-Enquirer/MCT via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11: 2010 Heisman Trophy candidate Cam Newton of the Auburn University Tigers speaks at a press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis on December 11, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11: Quarterback Cam Newton of the Auburn University Tigers speaks after being named the 76th Heisman Memorial Trophy Award winner at the Best Buy Theater on December 11, 2010 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: Photographer approval needed for all Commercial License requests. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images for The Heisman)
NEW YORK , NY - DECEMBER 12: ( L- R ) Bo Jackson (1985), Cam Newton (2010) and Pat Sullivan (1971) the three Heisman Trophy winners from the Auburn University Tigers pose during a portrait session on December 12, 2010 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: Photographer approval needed for all Commercial License requests. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images for the Heisman)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Cam Newton passes the ball during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
Carolina Panthers quarterbacks Derek Anderson, left, and rookie Cam Newton stand on the sideline during the first quarter against the New York Giants at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, Saturday, August 13, 2011. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) looks downfield for a pass in their game on Sunday, November 27, 2011, in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Panthers won the game 27-19. (Sam Riche/MCT via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 11: Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers meets Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons after the game at Bank of America Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Falcons defeated the Panthers 31 to 23. (Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images)
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton - January 2012. Bigger, Faster, Stronger, Smarter, Younger - Today's athletes are the sports they play continue to evolve at an extraordinary rate - which means 2012 ought to be unlike anything you've seen before (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 04: Professional Football Player Cam Newton speaks during the 2012 NFL Honors at the Murat Theatre on February 4, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton answers questions from the media following the team's game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, October 7, 2012, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Seahawks won, 16-12. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
Carolina Panthersquarterback Cam Newton grimaces as his left ankle is tended to by team personnel following an injury in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, Sunday, December 30, 2012. The Panthers defeated the Saints, 44-38. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 09: Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers takes the field before a preseason NFL game against Chicago Bears at Bank of America Stadium on August 9, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Panthers won 24-17. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 22: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers stands on the sidelines with his trademark Gatorade towel during the final minute of a win over the New York Giants during play at Bank of America Stadium on September 22, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Panthers won 38-0. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 20: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 20, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 18: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers warms up for a game against the New England Patriots at Bank of America Stadium on November 18, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Panthers won 24-20. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 18: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates with fans after the game against the New England Patriots at Bank of America Stadium on November 18, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 12: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates after a touchdown pass to Steve Smith #89 in the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 12, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 31: Cam Newton rings the closing bell at New York Stock Exchange on January 31, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Zak Photography/WireImage)
SANTA MONICA, CA - FEBRUARY 15: NFL player Cam Newton attends Cartoon Network's Hall of Game Awards at Barker Hangar on February 15, 2014 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 21: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers makes his entrance against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game at Bank of America Stadium on September 21, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 20: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 20, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 04: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers runs across the field after the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on October 4, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 02: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers takes the field before their game against the Indianapolis Colts at Bank of America Stadium on November 2, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Newton would say in an interview this past summer he's not sure how someone didn't die in the crash - the person who hit Newton wound up with minor injuries.

"That is the one thing I would have regretted is the people that I really cared about from friend to teammates to family - I never (would have) got a good farewell," Newton said. "We never know the day, the hour, the minute that is going to be our last hoorah. So while you have an opportunity to do something, please do it."

Rivera said the entire ordeal has helped galvanize the Panthers, creating a deeper appreciate for the 26-year-old quarterback and what he means to the franchise.

Newton would return after missing one game, leading Carolina to an NFC South title and a playoff win over Arizona.

The accident certainly hasn't changed Newton's approach to the game.

He has completed 54.7 percent of his passes and thrown for 3,156 yards with 31 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in the 16 games he's played since the injury, including the playoffs.

He's also run for nine TDs.

"It reinforced who he is to us as our offensive quarterback and our offensive leader," Rivera said. "There is something good that did come from it."

32 PHOTOS
Cam Newton Accident
See Gallery
Newton thriving one year after frightening automobile accident
A Charlotte firefighter tends to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton following a crash in uptown Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. (Todd Sumlin/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
This image made from video and provided by WSOC-TV channel 9 in Charlotte, shows the vehicle Carolina Panthers Cam Newton was driving in Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been taken to a hospital after being involved in an auto accident in Charlotte. The Charlotte Observer reports Newton was driving the truck. (AP Photo/WSOC-TV channel 9) CHARLOTTE MEDIA OUT
This image made from video and provided by WSOC-TV channel 9 in Charlotte, shows the vehicle Carolina Panthers Cam Newton was driving in Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been taken to a hospital after being involved in an auto accident in Charlotte.The Charlotte Observer reported that Newton was driving the truck. (AP Photo/WSOC-TV channel 9) CHARLOTTE MEDIA OUT
This image made from video and provided by WSOC-TV channel 9 in Charlotte, shows the vehicle, top left between a fire truck and tow truck, that Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton was driving in Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been taken to a hospital after being involved in an auto accident in Charlotte. The Charlotte Observer reports Newton was driving the truck. (AP Photo/WSOC-TV channel 9) CHARLOTTE MEDIA OUT
This image made from video and released by WSOC-TV channel 9 in Charlotte, shows the vehicle Carolina Panthers Cam Newton was driving in Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been taken to a hospital after being involved in an auto accident in Charlotte. A truck was overturned on the roadway with debris scattered all over the street. The Charlotte Observer reports Newton was driving the truck. (AP Photo/WSOC-TV channel 9)CHARLOTTE MEDIA OUT
This image made from video and provided by WSOC-TV channel 9 in Charlotte, shows the vehicle Carolina Panthers Cam Newton was driving in Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been taken to a hospital after being involved in an auto accident in Charlotte. A truck was overturned on the roadway with debris scattered all over the street. The Charlotte Observer reports Newton was driving the truck. (AP Photo/WSOC-TV channel 9) CHARLOTTE MEDIA OUT
This image made from video and released by WSOC-TV channel 9 in Charlotte, shows the vehicle Carolina Panthers Cam Newton was driving in Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been taken to a hospital after being involved in an auto accident in Charlotte. A truck was overturned on the roadway with debris scattered all over the street. The Charlotte Observer reports Newton was driving the truck. (AP Photo/WSOC-TV channel 9)
This image made from video and released by WSOC-TV channel 9 in Charlotte, N.C., shows the vehicle Carolina Panthers Cam Newton was driving in Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been taken to a hospital after being involved in an auto accident in Charlotte. A truck was overturned on the roadway with debris scattered all over the street. The Charlotte Observer reports Newton was driving the truck. (AP Photo/WSOC-TV channel 9)
A towing-operator works to upright the damaged truck driven by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton after the quarterback was involved in an accident, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. Newton was taken to the hospital. It's unclear how badly the 25-year-old he was injured. (AP Photo/Skip Foreman)
Emergency personnel tend to a damaged truck driven by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton after the quarterback was involved in an accident, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. Newton was taken to the hospital. It's unclear how badly the 25-year-old he was injured. (AP Photo/Skip Foreman)
The damaged truck driven by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton sits near Bank of America Stadium after the quarterback was involved in an accident, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. Newton was taken to the hospital. It's unclear how badly the 25-year-old he was injured. (AP Photo/Skip Foreman)
Police and fire officials examine Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's damaged truck following a crash in uptown Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. (Todd Sumlin/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
A Charlotte firefighter tends to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton following a crash in uptown Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. (Todd Sumlin/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 09: A pickup truck belonging to quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers, that was involved in a roll over accident, is towed away from in front of Bank of America Stadium on December 9, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Newton was transported from the scene in an ambulance after he was invovled in a car accident. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Panthers coach Ron Rivera says quarterback Derek Anderson will start Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in place of Cam Newton, who is recovering from an automobile accident that left him with two fractures in his lower back. (Dec. 10)
CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 09: A police officer looks over the scene after a pickup truck belonging to quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers was involved in a roll over accident in front of Bank of America Stadium on December 9, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Newton was transported from the scene in an ambulance after he was invovled in a car accident. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the first half against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 7, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Photo Credit: Sean Gardner, Getty Images

Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers wears a pair of military-themed beats headphones as he warms up before a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Bank of America Stadium on November 16, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Atlanta won 19-17. 

Photo Credit: Grant Halverson, Getty Images

Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton gives high-fives to fans after an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. The Panthers won 24-7.

Photo Credit: Bob Leverone, AP Photo

Two vehicles are damaged after a collision involving Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in uptown Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. (Todd Sumlin/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
Cam Newton is conscious and smiling after crash in uptown Charlotte. http://t.co/tx6R9qisSh
#Panthers' Cam Newton taken to hospital after crash http://t.co/DTnn4nlbPL #10News http://t.co/S2pO9BGkEi
The latest on the Cam Newton car accident. http://t.co/tsIR94SnTW http://t.co/88FGJm0xUS
CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano said Cam Newton was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. http://t.co/d3kPSIxPVI
ICYMI: @Panthers QB Cam Newton involved in crash. http://t.co/Q2irf2Jt4Y http://t.co/H55H9w2vCF
Police: Cam Newton transported to hospital with non-life threatening injuries; VIDEO: http://t.co/mGbqOG3CQo http://t.co/mmCoNKPmHO
NFL star Cam Newton taken to hospital after car crash: http://t.co/tZ1f693pgt http://t.co/z54HvngahE
BREAKING: Cam Newton was involved in a Huge car accident near the stadium. He's now on his way to the hospital. http://t.co/xZocuxXVeR
Cam Newton injured in Tuesday morning car crash. http://t.co/sZbjn9r91e http://t.co/98yPHCvavQ
PHOTOS: Cam Newton car accident | http://t.co/QtrJQvf1Jj http://t.co/VExeWfm4lj
NEW: Aerial picture of crash scene involving @Panthers QB Cam Newton. http://t.co/cY4X2QM2b5 http://t.co/rdkoK3q27W
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Read Full Story

From Our Partners