Cam Newton had spent his entire life as an Atlanta Falcons fan, until he was selected No. 1 overall by the Panthers in the 2011 NFL draft.
Now, the Carolina quarterback says he is a Falcons fan for 14 of their 16 regular-season games.
In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last weekend, Newton said he remains a fan of the NFC South rivals for all but two games a year – the two meetings with the Panthers.
“It’s always a heavily critiqued game,” said Newton in response to how tough it is playing his hometown team. “I’ve always been a Falcons fan, and I’m still a Falcons fan except for those two times a year.”
The comments came in a Q&A following his foundation’s “Fun Day” at a southwest Atlanta YMCA last week, which was attended by more than 300 kids. Questions ranged from giving back to the community to the Panthers’ offseason and also to his Belk clothing line.
Newton idolized former Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick and those Falcons teams from his adolescence, but that doesn’t mean he gives them any breaks.
Last year’s Week 4 meeting in Atlanta saw the Panthers blow a late lead in what would have been Newton’s first fourth-quarter comeback win. Coach Ron Rivera later said the loss especially hurt Newton, who wanted to beat the Falcons in his hometown.
“Obviously with Cam, in addition to several other Panthers who have roots from Atlanta and Georgia, it’s always one of the most competitive games on that schedule,” Cecil Newton, Cam’s father, told the Observer Monday. “That’s obvious, and Cam is going to assert every ounce of energy that he has.”
Newton has played Atlanta four times since entering the NFL, going 1-3 against the Falcons with the lone win in last year’s 30-20 home victory in Week 14.
After that game, Newton admitted he plays “with a chip on my shoulder” against Atlanta.
Cecil Newton likened his son’s comments to NBA star LeBron James sending well wishes to the Cleveland Cavaliers, his hometown and former team before joining the Miami Heat.
“That’s to the same tune,” Cecil said. “Why wouldn’t Cam want to express who his hometown favorite team was when he was growing up? It means no more or no less. Some of his best performances came during Falcons games.”
In two meetings last year against Atlanta, Newton went 38-for-59 for 502 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed 18 times for 202 yards and two touchdowns.
Newton also said in the Q&A that he earned a 3.5 grade point average after his spring semester at Auburn, where he’s 15 credits shy of earning his sociology degree.