CORNELIUS – Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton returned to Hough High on June 26 to host the second annual Cam Newton Foundation 7-on-7 Football Tournament.

More than 20 teams from the Carolinas, Virginia and Washington, D.C. participated in the two-day event to win prize money and compete for a spot in the S.C. Championship Tournament in July.

But Newton has a bigger vision through his football initiative – to empower youth to make a difference and positively affect kids in their everyday lives.  

“It’s bigger than Hough. It’s bigger than myself," he said. "It’s more about how we all can learn something from it and how we can take something from this event and apply it to everyday life to make us better."

When he looks out at the Hough football field and stadium, Newton says he sees nothing but fresh talent.

“This is the best talent in North Carolina and South Carolina combined and to bring them to one field means a lot,” he said.

Newton defines football as a pivotal sport and that is why he says 7-on-7 is a great way for kids to play football more months out of the year to allow them to evaluate their standings and improve.

He is excited to find out which teams would compete in the championship. Spartanburg Dorman High won the tournament.

“I look forward to it each and every year," Newton said. "It’s one thing to give back to my community. It’s another thing to show my presence. It’s extremely hot out here, but that comes second when you are around the kids all day, the parents and siblings.”

Hough football player Christian Young said having Cam Newton come to his school was quite overwhelming. According to several athletes, Newton kept a serious face and encouraged the teams to work hard.   

“Newton tells us to stay positive and not get down on (ourselves),” Young said.  

Young and teammate Carl Tucker felt confident Hough would win, especially since they won last year. He says it’s a lot of pressure this time around.

Shawn White, Hough assistant coach, believes having his stadium picked for the tournament is not only beneficial for the school but also for the Lake Norman community.

“I think its great that this high school is able to bring great talent and get it from a lot of places and multiple states to come here and play," White said.

He says there were no doubts or concerns about whether Hough makes an appropriate venue to host major sporting events.

“Our athletic director has been able to bring the Nike-Eastern region camps here, rival football camps here and the police vs. fire department game here,” White said. “In the last two, three, four years he has been able to bring in the better games and that is why Cam Newton comes back here. It’s a beautiful stadium and we have enough fields to accommodate 20 to 24 teams.”

The Cam Newton Foundation donates $2,500 to the first-place winner to buy new football equipment.

White says while its incredible to have Newton make an appearance, the football players have one goal in mind: to win and keep winning. 

“The fact Cam Newton and Under Armour are all out here, that is wonderful and great, but as far as the players, the players want to compete to win,” White said. “We are trying to build a winning, long-term program here.”

Newton says he is not physically out on the field to be the popular figure everybody knows and anxiously waits to meet. He wants to keep coming back out to directly influence athletes.

Tra Lee, an Anderson (S.C.) High football player, said he met Newton once before during a training camp at Bank of America Stadium.

“It’s a great experience to meet someone from the NFL and have someone to look up to while playing football,” Lee said.

Newton says his foundation focuses on shaping youth through education and helping them understand health and wellness.  

“When you look at the dropout rate around the United States of America, its embarrassing. When you look at the obesity rate around America, it’s also embarrassing,” Newton said. “I am just trying to be somewhat of a spark to make a change, not in everyone’s life, but everybody who I come in contact with. I try to enlighten them as much as possible.”