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Panthers Opt for Quarterback Newton With Top Pick in NFL Draft

Cam Newton, #1 overall pick by the Carolina Panthers. Photographer: Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Cam Newton, #1 overall pick by the Carolina Panthers. Photographer: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

April 29 (Bloomberg) -- The Carolina Panthers selected quarterback Cam Newton with the first pick in the 2011 National Football League draft, while both New York teams added to their defensive options.

The Giants selected University of Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara at No. 19 and the Jets took Temple University tackle Muhammad Wilkerson at No. 30. The draft, whose first round lasted three hours, 30 minutes, continues today with the second and third rounds.

Auburn University’s Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner as college football’s top player last season, joins a Carolina team coming off an NFL-worst 2-14 record. The Panthers scored a league-low 196 points last season, 75 fewer than the next-worst total by the Cleveland Browns.

“It was just like a shock went through my body,” Newton, 21, said yesterday in a televised interview at Radio City Music Hall in New York. “It’s a great organization and I’m ready to get to work.”

The draft began two days after the league was ordered by a judge to end a month-old lockout that followed the failure of owners and players to agree on a new labor accord. The league, which is appealing the decision, said players will be allowed to resume the use of practice facilities starting today. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was booed as he took the stage last night by fans who also chanted, “We want football.”

Boos to Cheers

The crowd’s reaction to Goodell contrasted with the cheers that erupted when the Giants selected Amukamara. The 21-year-old cornerback, who said it was his first trip to New York, was the 2010 Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year after recording 59 tackles in his senior season. He joins a Giants defense that gave up 210 passing yards per game last year.

“We thought he would get picked a lot higher than that,” Giants General Manager Jerry Reese said in an e-mail. “But it happens like that sometimes in the draft. Guys can fall right in your lap.”

The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Wilkerson was chosen as a second-team All-American last year after recording 70 tackles and 9 1/2 sacks in his junior season at Temple. The Jets gave up 1,454 yards on the ground last year, third fewest in the league.

The Denver Broncos selected Von Miller, a linebacker from Texas A&M, with the second overall pick. Miller is one of 10 players named in a lawsuit that accuses the league of antitrust violations and wage fixing.

Top Five

The Buffalo Bills opted for University of Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus with the third pick and the Cincinnati Bengals selected wide receiver A.J. Green of the University of Georgia next. The Arizona Cardinals completed the top five with Patrick Peterson, a cornerback from Louisiana State University.

The Atlanta Falcons moved up 21 places to sixth in a trade with the Cleveland Browns to take Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones and the Jacksonville Jaguars traded up six spots to the No. 10 pick, previously held by the Washington Redskins, to draft Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The Falcons gave up five picks; the Jaguars two.

Four of the first 12 picks were quarterbacks -- Newton, Gabbert, Jake Locker to the Tennessee Titans at No. 8 and Florida State’s Christian Ponder to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 12.

Newton, a junior who had one season at Auburn, follows Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions in 2009 and Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams last year as quarterbacks selected with the first overall pick. He was the oddsmakers’ favorite to be the first player selected.

National Title

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound quarterback led the Tigers to the Bowl Championship Series national title, the Southeastern Conference title and a 14-0 record in 2010.

Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, the University of Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick, who has also entered the draft, and Newton are the only players in college football history to throw for 20 touchdowns and rush for 20 touchdowns in the same season.

“I could scream right now, but I know that’s not the sane thing to do,” Newton said. “Man, am I happy. There were a lot of sleepless nights.”

Newton faced a probe into recruiting violations during his junior season. The National Collegiate Athletic Association cleared him to continue playing, ruling during the season that he was unaware of a pay-for-play demand organized by his father.

Aldon Smith, selected No. 7 by the San Francisco 49ers, said that the league’s labor issue had little effect on his fellow rookies, aside from forcing them to coordinate workout spots if team facilities weren’t open. The defensive end said the dispute in no way diluted his draft experience, which he called “a dream come true.”

“It’s something I cannot control and I think things are working out fine,” Smith said at the players’ association’s welcome reception yesterday. “It’s like my Christmas today.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at

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