The pickup of Carolina quarterback Cam Newton flipped over in North Carolina last year. Newton suffered two broken bones in his back.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cam Newton hasn’t forgotten about the frightening automobile accident one year ago that caused his pickup truck to flip near a highway overpass. It left him hospitalized with two broken bones in his lower back and wondering how he survived.
He reminds himself of the accident so that he doesn’t forget it.
The Carolina Panthers quarterback still wears the hospital bracelet he received on Dec. 9, 2014, on his left wrist as a reminder to embrace life and all its challenges. He even sent it off recently to have it engraved with the words “never forget your journey.”
Newton said Wednesday on the anniversary of the accident that it stands as a humbling reminder of what his father Cecil regularly told him as a kid: “One day you can be on the top of the world, and the next day the world can be on top of you.”
Right now, Newton and the Panthers are on top of the NFL world.
They have the league’s best record at 12-0, have won a franchise-record 16 straight regular season games, and can wrap up a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs with a win Sunday at home against the Atlanta Falcons (6-6).
The Panthers haven’t lost a regular-season game since Newton’s accident, their only blemish coming in a divisional playoff loss at Seattle last January.
Newton is a leading candidate to win his first Most Valuable Player award, already having thrown for a career-high 25 touchdown passes and run for seven more.
When Newton’s was hit by another car a few blocks from the team’s stadium, sending his truck flipping across a highway overpass, it sent immediate shockwaves through the organization.
The front office scrambled for information. His teammates, who had the day off, found out through Twitter and text messages, and dozens of them rushed to Carolinas Medical Center to check on Charlotte’s biggest sports star.
Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., then with the Arizona Cardinals, heard the news, stopped what he was doing, and prayed.
“At that point, you’re worried about Cam Newton the person, not Cam Newton the player,” offensive coordinator Mike Shula said.
Rivera watched the drama play out on television where cameras showed the former No. 1 overall pick on the side of the road a few feet from his mangled truck, being attended to by paramedics.
The fifth-year coach was concerned until he saw the quarterback’s smile.
“I saw those pearly whites, and I thought to myself he was going to be OK,” Rivera said. “He hadn’t lost his personality.”
Hundreds of friends, former teammates and coaches reached out to Newton that night at the hospital, including Gus Malzahn, his former offensive coordinator at Auburn.
Newton’s parents made the trip to Charlotte to take care of their son.
In the days following the accident, he received texts from some close to him reminding him to “never take anything for granted.”
Newton said he has taken that to heart.
“Just a simple I love you, a simple appreciation to the next person, that goes a long way,” Newton said.