Cam Newton says Watson’s maturation as player ‘just unbelievable’

by - Staff Writer -
Deshaun Watson is surpassing Cam Newton's rookie success and can join an elite group this Sunday. (USA TODAY Sports-Troy Taormina)

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton credits Deshaun Watson’s flair on the field to the area where he and the former Clemson quarterback grew up.

“(Watson is) another person who got swag, sauce, goo, drip, whatever you wanna call it,” Newton said Tuesday. “Just an Atlanta thing or a Georgia thing … Just trying to bring the fun to the football game. This is a sport that is already hard for what it’s worth and anytime we can put a smile (on a face) or shine a light on something outside of the physicality of it – I’m all for it.”

Watson’s ties to the former Heisman winner go back to his high school days in the Atlanta area. Newton has been keeping tabs on his protégé ever since, especially now as a peer in the NFL.

“Me and Deshaun go way back. I seen Deshaun grow up," Newton said. "For him to be involved with my foundation early on and to see him grow up over the years and just his maturation as a football player, man, it's just unbelievable…You best believe every time D-Wat is on I’m paying attention. I’m critiquing him and he’s probably critiquing me as well.”

Watson talked about their relationship during last year’s ACC Kickoff.

"Me and Cam are very close,” Watson told reporters last July. “I had the opportunity and privilege to meet him my junior year in high school playing for his 7-on-7 team. Ever since then, we just became close friends. We communicate all the time, texts, calls.

“He gives me good advice off the field, telling me to stay true to who I am, listen to the coaching staff and buy into the process. Don't get distracted with outside things."

Watson is on track to follow in Newton’s footsteps as the NFL offensive rookie of the year, where in an ESPN comparison of the two through their first five games, Newton passed for more yards (1,610 to 1,072) and rushed for more scores (5 to 2), but Watson held the advantage in completion percentage (62.1-57.3), TD-to-INT (12 TD, 4 INT; 7 TD, 6 INT) and rushing yards (179-160).

In a favorable matchup Sunday hosting the Browns (1 p.m.), Watson can continue those eye-popping early numbers.

Per ESPN, just one passing touchdown will match best six-game start for a rookie since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 (13 TDs).

ESPN also notes that Watson can join Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Drew Brees as the only quarterbacks in NFL history – rookie or veteran – to throw for at least four touchdowns in three straight games (since the merger).

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