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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 on the team didn't meet these guidelines.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.A month later on September 1, 2011, he was named the Panthers' starting quarterback, ahead of Derek Anderson and Clausen.In his NFL debut game on September 11, 2011, Newton was 24–37 passing for 422 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, in a 28–21 road loss to the Arizona Cardinals.This performance brought Cam a passer rating of 127.5, his highest yet.With Carolina's win over the Indianapolis Colts, Newton became the fourth rookie quarterback to pass for over 3,000 yards in his first season, joining Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, and Sam Bradford.
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.After Newton's second career game, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers commented, "I think someone said in the locker room that I'm kind of glad we played him early in the season because when he figures it out fully, he's going to be even tougher to stop." Newton's three additional interceptions against the Packers tied him for the most interceptions thrown in the league.His total passing yards over the first three games was 1,012 yards.2 dual-threat quarterback in the nation, and the 14th quarterback and 28th player overall.
He received scholarship offers from Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, and Virginia Tech.
In his second career game, a 30–23 home loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, Newton broke his own record, set the weekend previously, with 432 yards passing, throwing and rushing for a touchdown.