Newton thriving one year after frightening automobile accident

Boomer: Why Cam Newton Is So Polarizing
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.


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.

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."