IMG7v7 National Championship | Panthers QB Cam Newton throws strikes, passes on wisdom to competitors

Panthers QB throws, speaksto aspiring stars

jdill@bradenton.comJune 22, 2013 

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton speaks to IMG7v7 National Championship competitors and family members Friday during the Cam Newton Skills Challenge at IMG Academy. JASON DILL/Bradenton Herald

MANATEE -- Cam Newton lofted a pass toward a sprinting Derrick Curry, and the high school senior-to-be from Chicago wasn't going to let it slip through his fingers.

"He made me go get it," Curry said.

Curry was one of several football players at IMG Academy on Friday for the Cam Newton Skills Challenge that kicks off this weekend's IMG7v7 National Championship.

The annual tournament pits teams in two divisions, club and Future STARS (comprised of seventh- and eighth-graders).

The high school division was scrapped after only two teams made the trip, and those two schools are

joining forces to compete in the club division.

Curry will compete in the club division as part of the Midwest Boom, a new squad based in Illinois.

"It's a good opportunity," said Curry about the chance his team has to make an impact in the club division.

Curry participated in the skills challenge with the rest of the wide receivers and defensive backs on one of IMG's tightly manicured fields as music blasted hip-hop tunes.

And it was a treat for Curry to get the chance to receive a pass from Newton, the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.

"I'm not going to drop it," said Curry about catching Newton's pass.

Newton, a former Heisman Trophy winner and national champion from Auburn, came to IMG following his collegiate career to prepare for life in the NFL.

Like last year, his name was attached to the skills challenge.

But Newton, who was on the microphone emceeing the event last summer, changed gears this year by getting involved with the final throw to the receivers and defensive backs who navigated obstacles during their turn through the skills challenge.

Fred Billy represented Manatee County by winning the Future STARS division of the challenge.

Billy, who will attend Saint Stephen's in the fall, won the skills challenge that tested speed, strength and agility. He's on the team Change Factor, which is composed of seventh- and eighth-graders from the Greater Tampa Bay area.

Newton also spoke to the crop of players aiming for a future in football. His message was this: Above all else, respect the football.

"I was devoted to this football," Newton said to the group.

He added that the players need to seize the moment.

That note made an imprint with Curry.

"He was just showing me how to separate myself from a crowd," Curry said. "Work harder than everybody and dedicate myself to the sport."

The crowd at the IMG7v7 tournament is stacked with high-level recruits on teams from around the country. They are in Bradenton for the glory of winning the national title.

Team Tampa is back to defend its crown, but official play doesn't begin until Saturday.

On Friday, it was all about relaxing, but still excelling in front of an NFL quarterback.

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