As a 16-year-old junior, he passed for 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns and ran for 638 yards and 9 touchdowns, gaining the attention of major college programs.
In that game, he also caught a 27-yard pass from WR Legedu Naanee, making him a triple threat.
On December 24, 2011, in a 48–16 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Newton threw for 171 yards and 3 touchdowns and also rushed for 65 yards and a score.
In his rookie year, Newton broke all-time NFL rookie records for passing and rushing yards.
He became the first NFL quarterback to throw for 400 yards in his first game, shattering Peyton Manning's first-game record by 120 yards.
With a quarterback rating of 110.4, he also rushed for a touchdown, and became the first rookie to throw for 400 yards in his first career game.
His 422 passing yards broke Peyton Manning's rookie record for most passing yards on opening day.
Before the draft, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson asked Newton to maintain his clean-cut appearance after Newton told Richardson he had no tattoos or piercings and was thinking about growing his hair longer.
Although this is similar to a policy the New York Yankees has on all of its players, this gained some controversy on Richardson's part due to the fact that other players (most notably Steve Smith and Jeremy Shockey) had visible tattoos and, in Shockey's case, had longer hair earlier in his career with the New York Giants.
The Panthers recorded their first victory of the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars 16–10. The Panthers played the Atlanta Falcons, losing 31–17 while passing for 237 yards with no passing touchdowns.
Newton increased his team's record to 2–5 with a week 7 win over the Washington Redskins 33–20.
He threw for 256 yards and 1 touchdown, completing 18 of his 23 passes.