Enthusiastic rookie Norwell impresses

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CHARLOTTE – People appreciate enthusiasm, and in football, enthusiasm stands out.

Undrafted rookie guard Andrew Norwell stands out physically – he's 6-foot-6, 310 pounds with long curly hair. As offensive coordinator Mike Shula said, "He's a giant out there."

But it's his enthusiasm that immediately gets everyone's attention when he takes the field.

"To play pro football you have to love football," offensive line coach John Matsko said. "This guy loves football."

When starting right guard Trai Turner suffered ankle and knee sprains in the first quarter of last week's game against the Green Bay Packers, Norwell was called upon. Fernando Velasco shifted to right guard and Norwell stepped in at left guard.

Norwell was eager to take the field for the first time in a regular season game, and everyone in the huddle was well aware.

"You know he is in the huddle because he is going to break the huddle yelling every time, whether he is fresh, whether he is tired," quarterback Cam Newton said.

Newton has appropriately nicknamed the rookie guard "All Yell Norwell." And no one appreciates "All Yell Norwell" like the team's offensive linemen.

"He was really excited," center Ryan Kalil said with a smile. "He was pumped up to be in there."

Norwell impressed in his debut. He was prepared, he was physical and he was relentless – a term he always uses to describe his style.

"I didn't want to let my teammates down, so I went out there and played my heart out," Norwell said.

He's earned the respect of Kalil, a four-time Pro Bowler and team captain, with the way he approaches the game.

"His effort is outstanding," Kalil said. "I like his attitude about the game. I judge a guy by their selflessness, and he's a guy who is very selfless. He'll do whatever he can to help the team. Those are the kind of guys you want to play with."

Said head coach Ron Rivera: "He's got a great attitude about working hard, he's got a great attitude about getting an opportunity to play, and I think that is going to spread to his teammates."

It already has.

"He set the standard extremely high for himself – I told him that yesterday," Newton said. "When you see linemen running down the field, as a quarterback you are looking around saying, 'I have to get on my horse and start running down the field too.' That makes you want to step your game up a little more."

This is quite a bit of praise for a rookie from Ohio State who seemingly slipped through the cracks and went undrafted.

"He didn't slip through ours," Matsko pointed out.

The Panthers jumped at the opportunity to sign Norwell after the draft. Matsko credited the work of Ohio State offensive line coach Ed Warinner, who helped Norwell develop a great base and fundamentals.

"Coach Warinner talked about the details, doing things right," Norwell said. "It really instilled core values in me. I learned how to do it the right way."

A three-time All-Big Ten conference selection, Norwell played in 50 games with 39 starts at Ohio State. That experience has eased his transition to the NFL.

"I don't think it's too big for him," Rivera said. "Having played at Ohio State, being in big games, I think that helped him in terms of the transition."

Norwell is now playing in big games for the Panthers, the next one coming up on Sunday against the reigning Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.

With Turner and guard Amini Silatolu injured, Norwell is expected to make his first career start at left guard. And you can bet he'll be excited.

"He plays with passion. We like how he plays the game," Matsko said. "He is a very confident young man and he's tough as nails – both mentally and physically.

"I think he's got a real bright future in the NFL and on our team."

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