Heisman Trophy Winner. NFL draft, first pick overall. Rookie of the Year. Most Valuable Player. The highlights go on for Cam Newton. But the quest for the Lombardi remains in the eyes of the franchise quarterback for the Carolina Panthers
Becoming a champion just doesn’t happen overnight. It takes dedication, commitment and hard work to will your mind and body through the hours and days that others take off. To become a champion, you have to be laser focused. To know that the time and sacrifice you put in now, will pay off in the end.
Over the past seven years, the 29-year old quarterback has spent part of his offseason training with Baltimore-based Nate Costa, trainer and owner of FX Studios & Under Armour Performance Center. Their initial meeting took place in 2011 while Cam was in Charm City to watch his brother compete in a Ravens playoff game. He was just weeks removed from his first season as a professional, and the longest and most physical football season of his life. And yet, Cam wanted to get a workout in. Later that night, both saw each other at the game which ultimately led Cam to telling Nate he wanted to work out the next day. He expressed how he felt good about the workout he was put through. It was something he had never experienced, but something he knew would help him for the long run.
The call that Nate will never forget, and became a turning point for Cam’s career, came at 6 a.m. on Monday, December 31. The Panthers had beaten the New Orleans Saints the day before, finishing the regular season at 7-9 with no chance at the playoffs.
“I want to start training tomorrow,” Cam told Nate.
“I’m thinking, ‘You just came off of a seventeen-week season and you’re telling me you want to start training tomorrow!’”
“Nate, I need to train my body to know what it feels like to go all the way to the Super Bowl. So, I’m going to train up until the Super Bowl,” said Cam.
“And it still gives me freaking goosebumps saying it because we trained every day, five days a week with a soft rest day, through the Super Bowl.”
Cam led the Panthers to the playoffs the next three seasons, including the Super Bowl at the end of their 2015-16 campaign.
After building the trust within their relationship over the first two years, they entered each subsequent offseason with an evaluation of the previous season’s play. They’d identify areas that they would work on to would make him a better football player – from getting faster, feeling lighter, being stronger.
Entering July 2018, the two worked on conditioning and getting lighter for a number of reasons. They wanted to get the heart pumping blood and oxygen efficiently to the muscles, so he could recover faster and perform at the highest of levels all the time. Nate says his “conditioning levels now are through the roof.”
Another emphasis for this summer was to get stronger, but also leaner. Outside of the gym, what goes into his body became even more of a focal point. Gone are the days of cheat meals and sweets. With the help of a chef, everything that goes into Cam’s body is well-documented and has a purpose, whether it’s for energy, muscle recovery and growth, or his basic nutritional requirements. Everything he has done this summer is putting him in position to perform day after day, Sunday after Sunday.
Five years ago, Cam and Nate moved their off-season training to Sagamore Farm outside of Baltimore. Looking to incorporate hill workouts into the training, Nate introduced Cam to Oregon Ridge, a park with a significant hill, about five minutes from Sagamore Farms.
“As a trainer, this hill couldn’t be more perfect,” said Nate. “The first part of the hill is a gradual incline, and then it goes into this extremely steep part, and then it starts to level out. It's still an incline, but just not as steep as the previous. And then it goes into about another 100 yards of gradual hill.”
As inspiration each summer, Nate dedicates each run up that hill to each of Cam’s losses from the season before – a climb for each loss.
“And then before each one we'll say, ‘Okay, this one's for Tampa Bay. This one's for New England,’ whichever loss it was. And it's a way to take that negative energy and turn it into a positive energy, doing something for yourself, to better yourself.”
Entering the 2018-19 NFL season, Cam is laser focused and healthy, weighing just over 240 pounds with four-percent body fat, or as Costa describes as “machine-like.” The franchise quarterback has his eyes on the prize and knows what he did this summer will have a profound impact on the next 17 (or more) weeks, and with fewer hills to climb next summer.