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Newton inspires prep players; Davidson Day prevails

Posted Jun 19, 2012

CHARLOTTE - Growing up in the Atlanta area, quarterback Cam Newton embraced the opportunity to play in seven-on-seven tournaments like the one the Carolina Panthers hosted Tuesday.

Before Tuesday's event kicked off at the Bank of America Stadium practice fields, Newton shared his zeal with the 12 participating teams.

"How can you be on the football field and not be passionate?" Newton told the teams, giving a pregame speech that would have made any coach proud. "That's like going to the cafeteria and not eating. What are you going in there for? If you aren't pumped to show out in front of your peers and your coaches, I don't know what you came out here for."

After addressing the players for about 10 minutes, Newton walked from game to game, offering inspiration to those taking part.

It certainly rubbed off on Davidson (N.C.) Day School, which captured the championship with a dramatic 28-24 victory over reigning champion Mallard Creek High School of Charlotte. Davidson Day will represent the Panthers in the NFL's 2012 National 7-on-7 High School Player Development Tournament scheduled for July 12-15 in Indianapolis.

The Patriots, who won an independent schools state title in their first year of varsity competition in 2011, lost to Mallard Creek and Orangeburg-Wilkinson (S.C.) in round-robin play but still advanced to the eight-team tournament and avenged both losses while handing each opponent its lone loss.

In the title tilt, Mallard Creek took a 24-21 lead with an interception (interceptions count for three points) and could have salted away the victory with a touchdown. The Mavericks came up short, however, setting up Davidson Day quarterback Will Grier to find Michael Stevens for an 18-yard score as the horn sounded.

"Just like Cam said earlier, 'You've got to trust your teammates,'" Grier said. "I trusted my defense to get a stop, and they gave us a chance to do what we did."

Davidson Day coach Chad Grier – the quarterback's father – said his players were surprised by Newton's appearance.

"When he showed up, you just saw all the kids' backs straighten up, and you saw a lot of big smiles and big eyes," Coach Grier said. "He's such a charismatic, dynamic personality, and obviously a terrific player."

In addition to his involvement in Tuesday's tournament, Newton missed one day of Organized Team Activities earlier in the month to take part in a regional seven-on-seven tournament in Atlanta for a spot in the IMG Madden 7-on-7 Championships.

He will kick off that event later this month at IMG in Bradenton, Fla. - the same facility where the Panthers plan to practice leading up their regular season opener – by hosting the Cam Newton Skills Challenge to benefit his foundation.

"I took pride in playing," Newton said of his seven-on-seven playing days. "It was an organized ruckus where I felt like I could go out there and prove that I was worthy of being on the field.

"I wore No. 2 at the time, and whether we won or lost, the other team was going to know that No. 2 made a big impact on that game. If everybody plays with that type of attitude, there's no losing."

Now Newton is second to none, but he's determined to not let personal success get to his head. The high school players who gathered in a semi-circle to hear Newton on Tuesday appeared to be in awe of his presence, and Newton doesn't want it to be the last time he makes a lasting impression.

"A lot of people that came through my community made it to the NFL, but I couldn't really put my hands on them and say, 'Man, I know this person. He just came to our school,'" Newton said. "That's what I'm trying to do a better job of. As your status grows, your relationship with the community decreases. I want that to be the opposite with me.

"As I get bigger and grow and mature, I want my impact in the community to grow bigger. I think people have to see my face, and I want to see their face."