For Young Panthers Fans, It’s a Wonderful Life
The happiest fans in the NFL this season are the kids of the Carolinas.
Dubbed the “Sunday giveaway,” Cam Newton has been giving away footballs to kids after each score since his rookie season in 2011. Now his teammates join the fun too, and this year the club of Carolina kids with footballs from Newton and friends is bigger than ever. The undefeated Panthers lead the league with 53 total touchdowns, and Newton himself has a career-high 40 touchdowns—seven rushing and 33 passing. And with two regular-season games remaining, a football from Newton is likely at the top of every young Panthers fan’s Christmas list.
The MMQB found three lucky kids who have received footballs from Newton this season. They discuss fist-bumping with their hero, their newfound celebrity and their tips for other kids out there who want a ball.
* * *
‘The best Christmas present ever’
Porter Waleski, 7, Charlotte
The game: Week 14—Panthers 38, Falcons 0
The TD: Newton 46-yard pass to Ted Ginn in the first quarter
The reaction: “Ginn scored the touchdown, and then we saw him running over to where we were sitting, so I ran down there. I saw him running to me and then Ted Ginn gave me the ball. I can’t think of anything else on my Christmas list. It is the best Christmas present ever.”
1. Practice makes perfect. Porter’s grandpa has season tickets in the end zone, and Porter has been going to Panthers games since she was 3. It was always her dream to get a ball. She’s always among the crowd of kids running down to the front row after every touchdown. Porter finally got her moment after Carolina’s third touchdown of the game. “All the touchdowns had been in our end zone, so she had two little practice runs before,” says her grandpa Rusty. Porter says her years of practice made her pretty speedy. “I did get down there really fast,” she says.
2. Embrace your newfound fame. Porter’s family now likes to joke that she’s like a rock star on tour. “She is our little local celebrity,” Porter’s mom, Josey Waleski, says. Porter has made several stops around Charlotte to show off her famous football, including her second grade classroom and her grandpa’s office.
* * *
‘I never made that face!’
Michael Arellano, 11, Charlotte
The game: Week 11—Panthers 44, Washington 16
The TD: Newton 2-yard pass to Ginn in the second quarter
The reaction: “I was so, so, so happy. I didn’t think I was going to get a ball, because that was the first time I went down. I was just so excited. I didn’t know my face looked like I was crying. I was laughing and smiling so much.”
1. Don’t cry. The TV broadcast and the Jumbotron at Bank of America Stadium caught Michael’s face in an expression that looked like he was about ready to burst into tears. “My friends were all like, ‘Oh, Michael, I saw you on TV. It looked like you were going to cry!’” Michael laughs. “And I was like, ‘Seriously? I never made that face!’” Note to all the kids out there: When you get a football from Cam, the whole world’s watching.
2. Pay close attention. Michael got his football when the Panthers challenged an incomplete pass ruling and won. Newton’s 2-yard toss to Ginn was initially ruled no catch, but after review the call was reversed for a touchdown. “I knew it was going to be ruled a touchdown, so when the ref said it was a touchdown, I was one of the first kids down there,” Michael says. “I reached out and Cam gave me the ball.” Michael stayed vigilant while the play was under review, and it paid off.
* * *
‘I’m one of the lucky ones’
Jaden Battle, 11, Raleigh
The game: Preseason Week 3—Patriots 17, Panthers 16
1. Want it the most. Jaden was wearing Cam’s jersey when he got his football, and he thinks Cam is probably partial to kids wearing the number one jersey. For Jaden, it also came down to proving how bad he wanted it. “The two kids down next me, one of them was just sitting down, they weren’t trying to reach out for the ball,” Jaden says. “I’m pretty sure I was trying to get the ball more than anybody else.”
2. Be a kid. “I think Cam doesn’t like adults, but I think he likes kids. If you are a kid it would be easier to get one,” Jaden says. "For kids it’s like the best thing in their life, because many kids like football and they would like to get a football from Cam. I think it would change their world.” Sorry grownups, there’s just no arguing this one.
• Do you have fan story? Email us at email@example.com