Carolina Panthers fans know all too well the issue that comes with having Cam Newton as both their quarterback and the face of their franchise: There are so many people who think they know who Cam Newton is, but really don’t.
Whether it’s someone who suggests that he’s more concerned about fancy dress than about winning and losing or who simply will not drop Super Bowl 50 and the way he handled losing on the NFL’s biggest stage, there is no shortage of Cam Newton detractors – most of whom are blissfully unaware of how uniformed they are. But with any luck, anyone who watches All or Nothing will come to see Newton in a completely new light: Because it lays out the very sort of veteran player and leader that he has grown into.
The traditional persona of Newton, and what makes him so unlike any other athlete in the world, very much takes center stage: Newton explains his competitive mentality entering the 2018 season in the very first episode, and a fair share of time is devoted to his tastes and tendencies away from the football field (Specifically, his incomparable wardrobe) as well as how he keeps things light and loose. The opening sequence of the series, for instance, follows Newton to the Panthers’ practice field and him setting the “tone” by playing Beyonce over the speakers.
But the adventures of Newton as “DJ Ace Boogie” are not the focus of All or Nothing. Rather, the focus shown to Newton shows that within the walls of Bank of America Stadium, he is all business. The Panthers’ quarterbacks room is featured throughout the series, showing Newton’s day-to-day working relationship with quarterbacks coach Scott Turner as well as the skill players around him.
Not only does Newton take his work seriously, but he is also sought out for his opinion on issues that matter to the Panthers. For instance, Newton and head coach Ron Rivera hold a one-on-one meeting with each other, where Newton gives his thoughts on signing free agent safety Eric Reid despite the off-field “baggage” he presented.
Newton’s counsel lets on to his status as a team leader, which is highlighted from start to finish. In the opening minutes of the series, an address that Newton makes to the Panthers about exactly what it’ll take to become a Super Bowl-caliber team is highlighted.
“We’ve got to come together. Everybody. Not for our personal game, just for this team,” said Newton. “We’ve got young guys that’s hungry, we’ve got leadership, got talent. Everything to win a championship is in this [expletive] room. But I want everybody to realize that it’s gonna take every single person in this room to strain just a little bit more.
“Strain just a little bit more for me. Strain just a little bit more for us. And I guarantee you when we can’t strain no more, it’ll all be worth it.”
But Newton’s leadership is exhibited by more than just a rah-rah speech to his team: Throughout the series, Newton is shown talking to teammates one on one, trying to navigate them through the pitfalls they face. He is shown speaking on the bench with wide receiver D.J. Moore after two costly fumbles against the Washington Redskins, and he is one of the first to calm down cornerback Donte Jackson in Week 10, who is apoplectic on the sidelines after he feels wide receiver Antonio Brown pushed off on him. One of the most intricate displays of Newton’s leadership comes after Week 11, when he has a private meeting with wide receiver Devin Funchess after a disastrous game against the Detroit Lions.
Most striking of all is how Newton handles his late-season shoulder issues despite his own frustrations: After being deactivated for the final two games of the season due to his injuries, Newton nevertheless takes his seat in the Panthers’ quarterbacks room, and begins helping backup Taylor Heinicke to prepare for Week 16’s match with the Atlanta Falcons.
Throughout the entire season, Cam Newton is portrayed as not only an intense competitor and a once in a lifetime personality, but also as a man who is focused, dedicated, and thoughtful. And such thoughtfulness is perhaps best seen as the series comes to a close, when he reflects on what the 2018 season had to offer him and his team.
“This year has been frustrating – but at the end of the day, it’s been enlightening too,” said Newton. “Growing internally for me has been the biggest gain from it. It’s a lot of [expletive] that’s been said talking about man, my swag, my conscience, my ego – everything that makes me me – kind of was ruffled a little bit. But at the end of the day, this offseason is gonna be so important to my overall growth as I still grow in this game. Emotionally, as well as physically, it’s only gonna make me better.”
From the very time he entered the NFL Draft in 2011, so many of the things that have been said about Cam Newton have been based in how people perceive him, as opposed to the way he actually is both as a football player and as a man. With any luck, All or Nothing should change the way Newton is regarded by those who don’t know him. But for those who do know him, it is a validating and outstanding portrayal of one of the most-gifted men to have ever picked up a football.