Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is headed to Hawaii.
The Carolina signal caller, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2011 draft, was added to the NFC Pro Bowl squad Monday in place of New York’s Eli Manning.
Manning and the Giants beat the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship to advance to Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis, meaning Manning had to withdraw from the annual all-star game.
Newton completed 310 of 517 passes for 4,051 yards, the most by a rookie quarterback in NFL history. He also threw for 21 touchdowns with 17 interceptions to post an 84.5 quarterback rating.
Newton’s 14 rushing touchdowns are the most ever by an NFL quarterback in a season. He became the first quarterback ever to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 500 yards in a season.
Newton was traveling Monday and unavailable for comment.
His agent James “Bus” Cook did not immediately return phone calls.
“It’s obviously a tribute to him and says a lot about his work ethic and his approach to the game,” Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said during a telephone interview from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. But “it’s not just one person, and Cam will certainly tell you that. A lot of people contributed to him reaching that goal. In this game, you are only as good as the people around you.”
Newton will be the first Panthers quarterback to play in a Pro Bowl since Jake Delhomme in 2005, and only the fourth overall. Kerry Collins played in the game 1996 and Steve Beuerlein in 1999. Delhomme and Beuerlein were both voted in, while Collins played in the game as an alternate.
No Carolina quarterback has ever played in more than one Pro Bowl, but Newton certainly has that opportunity.
“It puts you on the map,” Hurney said of Newton playing in the annual Pro Bowl. “It’s a quarterback’s league and he draws a lot of attention to the organization because he’s in that elite status. That brings your organization a lot of positive attention. When you put up numbers like that you will attract attention.”
Panthers backup quarterback Derek Anderson said he’s “proud” of Newton.
“The way that he grew and handled himself this year and led our team...” Anderson said. “Reaching the Pro Bowl is a great accomplishment and it’s something nobody can ever take away from you. I know that Cam, given all spring and summer, is going to take great strides next season and I’m very excited to see him grow and lead us.”
Hurney said he’s been impressed with Newton since the first day he saw him play at Auburn.
“The impact he has had on the organization and in the locker room, as well as the diversity he has brought to the offense has been enormous,” Hurney said. “He’s been a huge spark at the most important position in the game right now. We’re thrilled to see him get chance.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera had pushed for Newton to be one of the three NFC quarterbacks selected to the Pro Bowl, but the rookie was beat out by Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Manning.
Newton was selected as the first alternate ahead of Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford and San Francisco’s Alex Smith.
Still, Rivera felt Newton was deserving of the honor.
“He set a standard, a very high standard for any rookie quarterback coming in, and he wants to improve,” Rivera said. “He’s gotten better in so many different areas. His basic fundamentals just continue to get better and better. Mentally, he’s getting the grasp of this offense. He’s understanding defenses better and better. You’re starting to see leadership come out of him. He’s really taken his game to next level, and there’s so much room for him to grow. He’s got such a high ceiling.”
Falcons safety William Moore said earlier this season that Newton is one of the most difficult quarterbacks to defend.
“He’s like playing a D-lineman,” Moore said. “It’s like a D-end at quarterback. Then he’s so fast. The last time we played, I got a chance to get him down. But he doesn’t go down with one hand. You’ve got to gang tackle him. It’s going to be important this week.”
Newton said after the season that he thinks he’ll be even better prepared for the 2012 season because he’ll have a full offseason to prepare.
He didn’t have that opportunity as a rookie because the NFL lockout wiped out most of the offseason.
“I can’t even tell you how much it’s going to help,” Newton said after the Panthers finished the season 6-10. “This season took me by storm, but without any coaching staff leaving — fingers crossed — it’s going to be the first time in a long time that I’ve had the same offensive philosophy for two years going forward. I look forward to it and look forward to doing my part to make this an elite team.”
Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski remains in consideration for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coaching job.