Cover Story: Cam Newton fever?

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The impact of Cam Newton.  A national champion, a Heisman Trophy winner and a million dollar smile.  He's the new face of the Carolina Panthers.

But is this the guy who's gonna take the Cats of the dog house?

There was a chorus of boos in New York for the most controversial and arguably most important draft pick in Carolina Panthers franchise history.

It was a different story in Uptown Charlotte.

"The Carolina Panthers select Cam Newton."

About 500 people showed up Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium.  Fans said agreed with the pick saying we need a quarterback.  And we sure got one.

Often controversial. Always flashy. And with that grey and blue suit and snazzy tie, some say Newton's already more fun to watch than last year's entire squad.

And we'll soon see how it pays off.

What kind of impact are we talking about here?

In Newton's own words, on the field, it could be more like collard greens than instant grits. It takes time.  But off the field, his impact is immediate. And it is huge.

He hasn't played a down in the NFL and already stealing the headlines and socking away the cash.

Under Armour, the apparel and shoe company, signed an endorsement deal with Cam Newton reportedly worth one-million dollars.

And it's that million dollar smile the Panthers are hoping can turn things around for them.

"I'm trying to be the best. I strive to be great," said Newton.  "It's not gonna be something like instant grits. I would call it collard greens.. you got to be still and wait."

But don't look for grass to grow under his feet.

Though the Panthers have sold out every home game dating back to 2002 last season when they went 2-14 there were thousands of no-shows in the stadium.

With Newton in the lineup at B of A, Erik Spanberg of the Charlotte Business Journal told us the Panthers are banking on returning fans in the stands.

It's revenue from merchandise and concessions that boost the Panthers bottom line.

"I think by having Cam Newton on the team people will be more excited and they'll be more likely to come to the stadium and not stay home and watch on TV," said Spanberg.

But with the league in labor trouble, the lockout that was on is now off (for the time being) a cloud hangs over whether Newton or anyone will be playing this year.

Friday players were cleared to talk with the coaches and get playbooks.  But for another day most of the day no one was working out at B of A.

"All of this leaves fans confused. They don't want to worry about legal arguments. They want to see these guys play football and so the sooner it's over with the happier fans will be," says Spanberg.

Cam Newton wasn't the only one booed at last night's NFL Draft.  So was NFL commissioner Roger Goodell who said he understands fans are upset.

Friday it was all about Cam the man.

"My wife's an Auburn fan," said Panthers fan Mel Freeman.  "We cheered for Cam last year and we know what he can bring. Hopefully he'll turn out to be a superstar. Hey he won a national championship last year.. why not win the Super Bowl this year?"

What's Cam Newton's number going to be?  How much is he going to get paid?  That's all got to be worked out.

The latest in the labor dispute:  The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily reinstated the lockout which prohibits current players from working out at team facilities, meeting with coaching staffs, etc.

The college draft goes on.  It continues Friday night and winds up Saturday.

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