“I was humbled and I went through a period where I was devastated and depressed,” Cam recalls. “I didn’t know where my career was going and if I wanted to play football anymore.”
Cam soon found refuge in Brenham, Texas. In January 2009, he transferred to Blinn Junior College, far different from the city life he was used to experiencing in Florida.
“At Blinn College, everyone was from Texas. During the summer or on weekends, everyone would go home. I’d be the only one at the college. It was a ghost town,” Cam says. “That’s when I would think about what I really wanted to do with my life. To me, life is a journey. It’s not just about a specific destination. Crossroads are good. They make you stronger and better in life. Crossroads allow your character to grow and for you to become the best version of yourself.”
Because Cam had the talent to play football, and the school needed a quarterback, Cam’s path took him back to football. It didn’t take long for Cam to win over his teammates. Playing in 12 games, Cam led the Blinn Buccaneers to an 11-1 record and a 2009 NJCAA National Championship. Well-deserved accolades followed. Cam was named a junior college All-America honorable mention and was the most recruited junior college quarterback in the country.
RUN TO THE HEISMAN
Cam was recruited by several colleges and eventually decided to head to Alabama, signing with the Auburn University Tigers. Cam led his team to victory game after game, and media reports began to list Cam among the top five candidates to watch for the Heisman Trophy. In his junior year at Auburn, Cam started all 14 games, completing 185 of 280 passes for 2,854 yards and an SEC-record 30 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He became the first player in SEC history to accumulate 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in a season.
On Dec. 4, 2010, Cam led the Tigers to an SEC Championship, their first since 2004, by defeating South Carolina 56- 17. This game set an SEC Championship Game record for most points scored and the largest margin of victory.
Cam was named MVP after scoring a career-best six touchdowns— four passing and two rushing. He was named the 2010 SEC Offensive Player of the Year and the 2010 AP Player of the Year. He was one of four finalists for the 2010 Heisman Trophy, which he won in a landslide victory. Only the third Auburn player to win the Heisman Trophy, Cam was happy, proud and humbled.
Following the SEC Championship, Auburn participated in the school’s first BCS National Championship Game on Jan, 10, 2011. Playing against the Oregon Ducks, Auburn won 22-19.
NO. 1 PRO
Three days after the win, Cam decided to forego his senior year and declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. On April 28, 2011, he was selected by the Carolina Panthers as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. Cam was the first reigning Heisman Trophy winner to go first overall since Carson Palmer in 2003, and he was Auburn’s fourth No. 1 selection.
Cam was ecstatic to get drafted but was prepared for the great challenges of the journey. “The NFL is like nothing else,” he says. “The demands of the game are greater; the preparation is much more intense. It’s about going out there now and being the best that I can be today; keep pounding, keep pushing.”
Cam was thrilled to play for the Panthers. “I’m a southerner at heart,” he says. “The Panthers organization is a remarkable one. To be a part of that organization is a blessing.”
Cam finished his rookie season with 310 passes for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns with 17 interceptions. He played as an alternate in the Pro Bowl and received numerous accolades, including being the second straight No. 1 pick to win the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year and the first Carolina Panther to win the Sports Illustrated Offensive Rookie of the Year Offensive Award.
GROWTH IN THE NFL
During Cam’s sophomore season, he improved in many statistical categories, raised his efficiency and cut back on his turnovers. Starting in 16 games, Cam finished the 2012 season with 280 passes for 3,869 yards and had 19 touch- downs with 12 interceptions. He finished the 2013 season with 292 passes for 3,379 yards and a career-high 24 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. Cam led his team to a 12-4 record and the Panthers made it to the NFC Divisional playoffs.
Although the Panthers didn’t advance beyond the first round, just to make his first NFC playoff game was a great accomplishment. Cam’s hard work didn’t go unnoticed. He was selected for the 2014 Pro Bowl and finished with 95 yards and one interception.
During the 2014 season, Cam was recognized by many for his clear development and growth as a pocket passer, as well as for his low percentage of “pickable passes,” or balls thrown that should be interceptions. He was still rated by many as the No. 1 quarterback in the NFL, but the Panthers finished with a 7-8-1 record.