My Fourth-Grader Loves Cam Newton (And I Love That)

"I want my kid ... to channel Newton's infectious appreciation of the moment," Shanoff says. "We should all be so lucky to live life with a little more dab." AP Photo/Mike McCarn

Let's get right to the point:

My son Gabe is 9 years old and a fourth-grader, just like Rosemary Plorin's daughter. And Cam Newton is his very favorite NFL player.

I am thrilled about that.

Gabe and Cam entered the NFL the same season -- 2011, Cam's rookie year and Gabe's kindergarten year ... and his first moment of NFL consciousness: our first season of the Red Zone channel.

Newton was an instant revelation for fans. Week in and week out, he would score (21 TDs passing and an astonishing 14 TDs rushing). He would celebrate first downs, arm extended. He would pretend to rip his jersey open, like Superman. He would beam.

Gabe was captivated, red zone moment after Red Zone moment -- this was a player who so personified talent and zeal that even a 5-year-old could recognize it.

That year, Gabe went as Newton for Halloween. Since then, the obsession has only grown: Newton T-shirts and posters, laughing at his hilarious Play 60 commercial, Sunday after Sunday of watching games (entirely envious of the kids in the end zone who typically get a football from Newton after he scores a TD). A picky eater, Gabe even is considering trying Oikos yogurt, specifically because Newton endorses it.

And, yes, when he plays flag football or horses around with his friends, Gabe loves to do Newton's signature "Superman" move. He sees a new touchdown "dab" from his favorite player, and he immediately hops off the couch to try it himself. His eyes are transfixed by his hero on TV, and he is smiling as wide as Newton himself.

Where Plorin -- erroneously -- watches Newton and sees "egotism, arrogance and poor sportsmanship," Gabe sees self-confidence, task mastery and, most of all, joy.

And, as his parent, I couldn't be happier about him embracing those lessons -- especially the joy on display. I want my kid to recognize that, to want to emulate that, to channel Newton's infectious appreciation of the moment. We should all be so lucky to live life with a little more dab.

From the minute he stepped into the league -- you could argue this extended to his year at Auburn, putting together arguably the greatest single season by a QB in college football history -- Newton was unlike any player before him. I will defer to the perspective of my kid, who can recognize and appreciate Newton's zest for life better than the chagrined adult.

I can't wait to take Gabe to his first in-person Carolina Panthers game. In the meantime, he will get ready to watch Newton on TV on Sunday -- with any luck, there will be more unique celebrating.

Dan Shanoff writes about sports and parenting for espnW. Join the discussion about this at facebook.com/espnw.