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Carolina Panthers

UNC quarterback inspired by Newton

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Aspiring NFL quarterback Marquise Williams had a secret weapon to help prepare himself for his UNC Pro Day back in March.

He tapped into the same video he always does when he's got a big day ahead: Cam Newton's "Unstoppable" motivational tape.

That should come as no great surprise. Williams, who recently completed his college career at North Carolina and is a native of Charlotte, was finishing up his high school career at Mallard Creek when Newton first arrived on the scene for the Panthers.

Williams said Newton, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft and the league's Most Valuable Player last season, has been motivating him ever since. He even credited Newton with helping him trim down to 218 pounds for his pro day after he finished his senior year at UNC playing at 228.

"I wake up and I eat right," Williams said. "You eat like a pro, you play like one. I heard that from Cam.

"Man, I watch his "Unstoppable' video all the time. When I started college ball, I watched it before my first training camp practice. I watched it again before my first game, and I watched it before my big day today."

The first version of Newton's video was basically a highlight reel of Newton's first season with the Panthers, when he won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Williams started watching it then and has more or less patterned his approach to football after Newton, who likes to have fun on the field and doesn't mind showing it.

That showed when Williams first arrived in the weight room for UNC's recent pro day. While nearly all of the rest of his former Tar Heel teammates seemed tense and businesslike, Williams was smiling, shouting encouragement to everyone and working the roomful of scouts and media like a politician running for office.

Williams laughed when he was asked if he was nervous about his pro day, which was particularly important for him because he was not included in the group of 18 draft-eligible quarterbacks invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

"It was actually exciting. I woke up happy, just smiling," Williams said. "This is my opportunity. It's the only opportunity I needed to get. So why not smile and have fun? I couldn't waste it.

"I told the guys when they walked in. It was 8:15 and I was the only one loud and yelling. I was like, "Man, come on! This is football! We get to come in and do the inside stuff, and then we get to go outside and show our natural ability, and that's all fun.' So I was happy and excited. I wasn't nervous one bit."

Robert Haines, the Panthers' area scout who covers the North Carolina area, certainly took notice.

"It's the same thing out here on the field, too," Haines said. "You can see him encouraging guys a little bit when he had to. That's a really good thing to see."

There have been questions about Williams' ability to develop into a drop-back passer in the NFL, as well as whispers that he was too quick to pull the ball down and run in college when he might have had more success staying in the pocket. But both Haines and Williams said they were pleased with how he threw the ball on his pro day, hitting receivers all over the field on a variety of routes.

"My main focus was showing them that I could drop back in a pro-style offense and make all the throws, and that I could move in the pocket and that I could throw the football," Williams said. "I heard a lot of commotion like maybe I wasn't going to be able to throw the football around today, but I only missed two throws. So I felt good about that."

Williams said he knows he might not get drafted. He knows he might not even make it to the NFL, but he's confident he will get a chance in someone's camp - and he's also confident in his belief that he will be a success in life no matter what happens. Heck, Cam helped teach him all of that.

"I get the question from a lot of people, "What are you doing now?' And I'm like, "I'm training for the draft, what do you think?'" Williams said. "I just need one team to believe in me. But no matter what, I'll keep my smile.

"If I don't make it in football, I'm not going to be sad. Life's not over. I can still be a millionaire in anything else, so I'll find a way to be a millionaire."

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