CHARLOTTE - Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton clearly has the support of his fans.
Newton is a first-time nominee for the prestigious Nationwide Walter Payton Man of the Year award, given annually to an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field with a significant positive impact on his community.
One pillar of the annual award process is the Charity Challenge. It allows fans to vote for their favorite players through social media, drumming up organic support for each player's name and causes. This year, Newton received more than 600,000 votes to win first place, twice as many as second-place Nick Sundberg.
As the winner of the challenge, Newton receives $25,000 for the charity of his choice.
"I appreciate the fans for showing support in helping Nationwide's Charity Challenge," Newton said in a statement. "I'm using this platform to enhance programs and grants that will greatly impact the community. To be nominated for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award is something that I really appreciate - because it's bigger than football. God has blessed me and all I'm trying to do is bless others."
Newton established his own foundation, the Cam Newton Foundation, in 2012, identifying three pillars of focus: EVERY 1 PLAYS (youth activity, mentoring high school players), EVERY 1 GIVES (donations and community outreach) and EVERY 1 LEARNS (diversity and societal education). Together, they make up the foundation's guiding principle and Newton's personal belief of EVERY 1 MATTERS.
Since inception, the foundation has provided $5.13 million in grant funding, year-round programming resources and donations to schools and non-profit agencies in Atlanta and Charlotte. Over 12,500 student-athletes and coaches have participated in Newton's EVERY 1 PLAYS initiative and over 11,850 need-based youth have been provided meals and gifts through Newton's signature annual programs: "Cam's Thanksgiving Jam" and "Santa Cam's Surprise Sleigh."