Sam Darnold laid-back demeanor is perfect disguise for intense work ethic
As former Carolina Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton, with his vibrant, larger than life personality struggles to find a locker room this season, a more subtle leadership brand is etching its way into that role with in the Carolinas. Since Newton's days in a Panthers' uniform, the team has navigated its way through the, short lived, Teddy Bridgewater era before trading for its current option - Sam Darnold. The deal gave the Jets three picks: a sixth-rounder in the 2021 draft and a second-rounder and fourth-rounder in 2022.
Even though he's known as more of a gunslinger than either of his predecessors on the field, Darnold is quite the opposite with regard to his personality. Many of his teammates describe him as just a mild mannered good guy. But that has not prevented him from establishing a firm grip on his teammate's respect. In fact, they are embracing his "Cali" vibes and dancing to the Darnold music - hopefully all the to the playoffs and beyond. One such player is Panthers' running back Christian McCaffrey. " He's the same guy all the time ...he's just a normal guy in a really good way," McCaffrey said. And McCaffrey is just as hyped about Darnold's ethics in the huddle.
"He works his butt off every single day ...he's a football guy."
Since his arrival in Charlotte, Darnold has put in a lot of work with Panthers' quarterback coach Sean Ryan to erase the memories of his former performances in New York. Close attention has been paid to the young quarterbacks footwork. "I always knew he was talented obviously," Ryan said.
"For me, it was getting to know him and seeing what kind of work ethic he brings to the building every day."
Ryan got a good look at Darnold's work ethic during training camp each day starting with his daily ritual of being the first player on the field. Darnold followed with his commitment to getting better at every aspect of the game he's been asked so far.
Despite a cache of offensive weapons that includes a healthy Christian McCaffrey, wide receivers DJ Moore and Robby Anderson, and tight end Dan Arnold this season has the potential to look like his performances of the past if the offensive line fails to protect him. So far Darnold has expressed his full confidence in the front line the Panthers' have entrusted with that duty and appears ready to prove the naysayers wrong.
"It's just, again, learning from what works and what doesn't ...and when I say that I mean my feet, just keeping my feet calm and making my progressions," Darnold said.
The first test of Darnold's ability to keep the lid on his emotions regardless of the stress level is coming up Sunday, Sept. 12. The Panthers will host Darnold's former team the New York Jets to start his renaissance season.
Date: Sep 12, 2021
Opponent: vs New York
Time: 1:00 PM