One year ago, Cam Newton stood on top of the world. He was cruising to his first NFL MVP award. The entire nation was mimicking his signature celebration, the dab. The Carolina Panthers were ripping their way through the postseason en route to Super Bowl 50. Things could not have been going much better.
But a lot can change in a year (aside from the fact everyone's still dabbing).
The Panthers today are coming off a 6-10 season in which Newton posted the lowest passer rating of his career. How could the defending NFC Champions—led by the defending NFL MVP—suddenly seem . . . mediocre? Injuries. Free-agency departures. Bad luck (six Panthers losses were by a margin of three points or less). All of those things played a role. But whatever you choose to blame, Newton is once again facing questions that doubters have tossed his way throughout his career: Is he really an elite player? Does he have what it takes?
But for those who know Newton best, there's little doubt he's capable. And willing to do whatever it takes.
"Every single time he comes and works out, he has no idea what's coming. He just knows I need 100 percent effort," says Nate Costa, owner of FX Studios and Newton's personal trainer. "And he brings it."
Newton will spend hundreds of hours training his body under the watchful eye of Costa and others, but it won't be the only thing he dedicates himself to this off-season. As Newton has matured as an athlete and a person, he's honed his natural ability to lead and applied it in more ways—with young athletes, with his family, and even as a coach.
"I think this can be Cam's greatest moment," says former NFL running back Eddie George, a fellow Heisman trophy winner and friend to Newton. "We're going to really find the best of Cam Newton in the next couple of years."
Cam In The Community
Newton often gets described as a "big kid." He has an energetic, infectious personality. So it makes sense that he's passionate about helping children.
There are the touchdown balls. For the past several seasons, Newton has handed out every one of his touchdown balls to a kid in the stands. But Newton does much more than give out souvenirs.
The Cam Newton Foundation has a mission to "ensure that children's socioeconomic, educational, physical and emotional needs are enhanced." Newton focuses his community outreach in Atlanta and Charlotte, two areas he calls home. His foundation's work falls into three categories: "Every 1 Learns," "Every 1 Plays" and "Every 1 Gives."
Every 1 Learns refers to the foundation's academic support, providing aid for academically talented or motivated youth who lack resources and providing mentoring and tutoring for at-risk students.
Every 1 Plays centers around physical activity and teamwork. Cam seeks to improve and revitalize communities by enhancing parks, fields, playgrounds and community centers. He has also has created programs that support student-athletes who might not otherwise be able to participate in sports.
Every 1 Gives is about community outreach and general charitable support. An example is the "Thanksgiving Jam" Newton hosts every year. Last November, roughly 900 children were provided with food, dancing and fun at the event.
— Cameron Newton (@CameronNewton) December 15, 2016
The Newest Newton
In December of 2015, Newton assumed a new position—father. Chosen Newton is Cam's first child.
Cam recently wrote a powerful letter to Chosen. Posted at The Player's Tribune, it addressed his own shortcomings as a person and urged his son to be better than he is.
"At times, Son, I am not proud of the man that I am. Some of my decisions are far from perfect," Newton wrote. "Don't be like me, Son, be better than me. You don't have to be an athlete to be accepted by me. You can be whatever you want to be. But whatever you decide, I challenge you to be the best."
There's no leadership role more important than father, and Newton is cherishing the experience. Family has always been important to him. He's long strived to be a role model for his younger brother, Caylin.
Caylin—who's committed to play football at Howard University—was a member of Cam's 7-on-7 team, the Cam Newton All-Stars. Newton, who funds and coaches the team, hand-picks the players based not only on their athletic ability, but their perseverance, hard work and discipline.
"It really means a lot to me when I make my brother proud," Caylin told STACK. "I know his schedule is so busy, but he takes time out to make sure he has this relationship with me. Everyone else sees him as an icon on the television, but they don't see he actually has a family,"
Cam's All-Stars are no casual hobby or PR stunt. The team practices together for two weeks before they travel to IMG Academy in Florida for the National 7 v 7 Championship Tournament. All the while, Newton serves as head coach, expending enormous effort and energy and pushing his players to be their best.
He also shares lessons he learned throughout his life to help keep them on the path to prosperity. "My message to the kids is simple: make the most of every opportunity," Newton says. "Be committed to something. Stick to something. Have that sheer desire to want to succeed."
— STACK (@STACKMedia) June 26, 2016
Last summer, Newton guided the team past many of the best squads in the nation en route to the finals of the National 7 v 7 Championship Tournament. They lost in the final game to Midwest BOOM, after which Newton was visibly disappointed. He really, really doesn't like losing—but he offered encouragement to his players.
"[Cam] is so competitive," says Khalil McClain, a three-star receiver who played on the All-Stars last Summer. "I love that. Because I'm like that. So it's great working with him."
There's no doubt Newton will bring that same motivational fire to the team again this year.
Getting Stronger, Together
When Cam returns to the gym this off-season, he won't be alone. Years ago, he came up with the idea of having his teammates join him for summer workouts. The first year, it was a three-day session in Greensboro, North Carolina. During the summer of 2015, it was a two-week session at the Under Armour Performance Center in Baltimore. The group, which usually consists of a number of wide receivers and tight ends, train together during the day and works on passing drills at night. They train all-out, following Newton's example.
"[Those sessions] are the first time some of those guys have ever worked that hard that many days in a row. They ask Cam, 'Do you really do this all the time?' And Cam says, 'Yes, this is my world. This is how hard I work over and over again,'" Costa says.
Newton thrives on competition, so group workouts bring out the best in him. If you want a snapshot of his determination, watch this video of Newton competing in—and winning—a 2,200-meter rowing relay against his Panthers teammates.
Newton hates losing in any form, an attitude that rubs off on his teammates. After a rocky 2016 season, we expect Newton to push himself—and his teammates—like never before. "My leadership is about trying to get 11 guys to believe in one common goal. It's about them willing to run through a brick wall for me, and me willing to run through a brick wall for them," Newton says.
Cam's Killer Workout
Cam's workouts are challenging enough to make NFL players beg for mercy. What makes them so brutal is their unpredictability and fast pace. "Our training style is variety. It's rare that we'll ever do the exact same workout twice," Costa says.
Below you'll find a sample week of Newton's off-season workouts. It's been toned down a bit, but it's still plenty punishing. A couple of key terms to know:
- "Sliders" are furniture sliders. They allow for a huge number of exercises to be performed on a wide variety of surfaces.
- "AMRAP" stands for As Many Reps as Possible.
Day 1: Full-Body Workout
Ladder Drills (10 times through with a different variation each time. Check here for variations you can use)
Circuit 2 (Repeat 4 times)
Floor Press with Dumbbells (12 reps)
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row (12 reps)
Broad Jump (50 total yards)
Spider-Man Plank (20 reps on each side)
Day 2: HIIT Conditioning
Circuit 1 (Repeat 3 times)
Weighted Lunges (80 total yards)
Split-Squat Jumps (50 reps)
30-Yard Sprints (4 times with 30-second rest between)
Skater Jumps (60 total seconds)
Plate Push (80 total yards)
Circuit 2 (Repeat 3 times; take a 15-second break between exercises)
Alternating Battle Ropes (45 seconds)
Body Saws on Sliders (45 seconds)
Battle Rope Slams (45 seconds)
Mountain Climbers on Sliders (45 seconds)
Alternating Battle Ropes with Shuffle (45 seconds)
Finish the workout with 5-10 minutes of shoulder mobility exercises.
Day 3: Recovery Hill Runs
Find a big hill near you. Newton uses an old ski slope at Oregon Ride Park just north of Baltimore.
Jog up the hill 5 times. Rest 2 minutes between ascents.
For your sixth time up the hill, sprint the entire way.
Day 4: Lower-Body Strength and Stability
Circuit 1 (Repeat 3 times)
Leg Press (12 reps)
Stand-Kneel-Stand (10 reps)
Squat Jumps with Knee Tucks (20 reps)
Circuit 2 (Repeat 3 times)
Single-Leg Leg Press (6 reps each leg)
Barbell Glute Bridge (10 reps)
Bulgarian Split-Squat Jumps (10 each leg)
Side-Lying Leg Raises (10 reps each side)
Finisher (Repeat 2 times)
Sled Push (60 yards)
Farmer's Carry (60 yards)
20-Yard Sprint (Perform 3 before restarting the circuit)
Day 5: Full-Body Workout
Circuit 1 (Repeat 3 times; rest 30 seconds between exercises)
Pull-Ups AMRAP (60 seconds)
TRX Push-Ups AMRAP (60 seconds)
Leg Raises AMRAP (60 seconds)
Circuit 2 (Go through 3 times)
Box Jumps (12 reps)
Dumbbell Front Squats (12 reps)
Lateral Band Walks (20 yards in both directions)
Sled Pulls (40 yards)
Circuit 3 (Go through 3 times)
Lat Pull-Downs (10 reps)
Cable-Resisted Rows (10 reps)
Plank to Push-Ups (20 reps)
Tick-Tock Planks on Sliders (10 each leg)
Med Ball Slams (12 reps)
BOSU Ball Planks with Knee Tucks (20 each leg)
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