The Cam Newton Foundation gave $150,000 to Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools Tuesday -- Bradley Middle School, Thomasboro Academy and Randolph Middle School received $50,000 apiece. Newton met with students from each in Randolph's 400-seat gym.
When Newton, who plays quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, was introduced, students reacted the way you'd think they would. Along with cheering and yelling, a few jumped up and engulfed him. Then a few more did. While public relations representatives worried, Newton moved into the crowd, slapping hands, at ease, smiling.
I've been around Newton at training camp, at practice, in the locker room and at Auburn. I've never seen him like this.The afternoon wasn't about quarterback rating, won-loss record or a towel on his head.
This was about his foundation and the kids.
It was as if the microphone was an extension of Newton's right hand. He worked the room, moving back and forth, laughing, exhorting, challenging, praising.
He asked for ovations for the middle school football teams and for the National Junior Honor Society. When he deemed applause for the honor society insufficient, he demanded more.
He asked kids what they wanted to be when they grew up. A vet, one said, a doctor, said another, a football coach, said a third. To get any of those jobs, an education is necessary, Newton told them.
Without an education, he told middle-schoolers, your opportunities will be limited. With an education, they'll be limitless.
Newton was scheduled to answer questions and speak for five to 10 minutes. He talked for 30.
After he finished he told me: 'It's not something I was forced to do. I wanted to do that."
You could tell.