From the heart: Cam Newton's gift to a fan

jjones@charlotteobserver.comJuly 30, 2013 

— Pat McIntosh knew what her daughter wanted late Tuesday morning.

Shelley McIntosh, 33, has been in a wheelchair for nearly all her life and can’t speak due to her cerebral palsy, but she was able to communicate to her mother that she wanted to meet Cam Newton.

The starting quarterback was the last Panthers player coming off the field, having signed several autographs like every day after practice. As he trudged up the paved hill toward the locker room where still more fans gathered after he had finished a two-hour-long practice, he was struck seeing Shelley, he said.

Pat told her daughter to wave as much as she could to get his attention. But Newton said it was Shelley’s smile that attracted him.

“A soon as he came up to her, he wanted to know her name and we told him her name and he just bent over unlacing his shoes,” Pat said, “and I just thought he’d give her a shoelace and thought, ‘What he’s doing?’ ”

Then, Pat said, Newton spoke gently to Shelley, saying he was going to give her his size 14 Under Armour cleats and sign them for her.

“I think Cam needs to be given credit because he’s young and fairly new to our team,” Pat said. “And I just think when the guys do that, when they’re tired and come off that field and made that gesture to Shelley, that says so much for his heart.”

Shelley’s father, Allan, came prepared with a football for Newton to sign, and he got it after Newton gave Shelley the shoes and posed for a picture.

The McIntoshes have been Panthers personal seat license holders since 2003 and regularly come to training camp at Wofford.

Pat said veteran wide receiver Steve Smith usually stops to talk with Shelley, as have linebackers Luke Kuechly and Jon Beason and Panthers owner/founder Jerry Richardson.

“Even Jerry Richardson loves her,” Pat said. “He’ll say, ‘I know you’re our No. 1 fan.’ ”

The Observer profiled Shelley in 1998 when she graduated from East Mecklenburg High. She got an A on her senior exit paper after presenting it to the judges with the help of a DeltaTalker, a computer that relays words and phrases Shelley keys in with her eyes and speaks in a female voice. Shelley went on to study for two years at Central Piedmont Community College.

The McIntoshes have a lot of Panthers memorabilia at home, including a commemorative Super Bowl football from the Panthers’ appearance in Super Bowl XXXVIII, as well as several signed items from former and current Panthers.

But Newton’s cleats? Those will have a special place in their home.

“We have the Super Bowl ball in a glass case upstairs, and those shoes,” Pat said, “will we ever find a glass case big enough to fit those shoes?”

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