With a pair of salt shakers and some honest curiosity, George Whitfield got inside the mind of Cam Newtown.
Now Newtown’s personal quarterback coach, Whitfield first met the Carolina Panthers quarterback in a San Diego restaurant before the 2011 NFL Draft.
Seated at the end of a long table, Whitfield said he asked Newtown about the Oregon defense he topped in the 2011 BCS Championship Game. Newtown used the salt shakers to simulate the pass rush of Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews.
But Whitfield had trouble following along.
“I said I can’t see that,” said Whitfield. “I asked for a pen and we wrote front and back on six napkins. Coverages, adjustments, check-offs.”
It was then that Whitfield was able to see that Newtown “was much more than some sort of dynamo.”
Whitfield was excited to get to work and three months later he was in New York when Carolina nabbed Newtown with the first pick in the draft.
On Monday night, Newtown will lead the Panthers into Lincoln Financial Field for a match up with the Eagles.
In late August, Whitfield was in the area to work out with local high school quarterbacks. Among them were Glassboro senior Mike Gillespie and Episcopal Academy’s Nick Maras.
Maras, who will be a freshman next season, worked with Whitfield at the Rock Your and also attended the Peyton Manning Camp.
“He’s just a good coach overall,” said Maras. “He doesen’t push you into doing anything. He doesen’t have a set of rules, instead he works directly with what you need.”
Maras said his throwing has become more accurate and his throwing power has increased. One of the facets they worked on was his release time, which Maras said has become faster.
After spending a few years working with less-polished players, Whitfield had the opportunity to work with Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger during the quarterbacks six-game suspension in 2010. He was Roethlisberger’s first private coach, as Whitfield said everything Roethlisberger was using was “innate ability.”
Whitfield worked out with Hunter Cantwell, who signed with Carolina after being undrafted in 2009. He then helped Rice’s Chase Clement earn the UFL’s MVP in 2010 before working with Cincinnati’s Tony Pike, who was drafted by Carolina.
Whitfield said the challenges of working with these players resulted in a sense of pride when the results came in.
“You’re not going to be on lunchpails, but you will be on an active roster,” said Whitfield. “I always relished that under dog role and the long days.”