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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Carolina Panthers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery was trying to explain why people are drawn to Cam Newton when his quarterback broke into the interview.

“You call him Cotchery, I call him Clutchery,” Newton said as he playfully put his arm around the 33-year-old receiver. “Uncle [Clutchery], to be exact.”

Cotchery laughed.

“That’s it,” he said, referring to the point he was trying to make before Newton interrupted. “That’s it.”

Cam Newton’s ability to keep his teammates loose and having fun is one of the reasons why the Panthers have played well. Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

It begins with Newton’s smile and trickles down to his kid-like playfulness and energy. You’d swear he was 16 instead of 26. Some people are turned off by it. Many more seem drawn to it lately, particularly when it comes to Newton’s often-imitated dabbin’ in the end zone.

That the Panthers (11-0) are the only undefeated team in the NFL – and that Newton has been a big part of that – certainly helps. But it goes beyond the winning.

“He’s very charismatic,” backup quarterback Derek Anderson said. “His smile, his energy, passion for the game.

“He plays the game like a kid, which is instrumental for everybody. You see his energy, it’s hard not to match it.”

Newton has been this way for years, his teammates say. People just didn’t notice as much early in Newton’s NFL career, when the Panthers were losing. Instead of seeing the fun-loving Newton, people saw pictures of him sitting alone on the sideline with a towel on his head.

Now people – his teammates, especially – are drawn to his desire to make the game more fun.

“His energy. His energy, man,” said wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in training camp. “His energy for the game, his energy off the field. He loves kids and the things he does for the community – and he’s always smiling.”

At that moment Newton walked by with a big grin.

“Look at him,” Benjamin said. “He’s always smiling. You’ve got to love it. Look at him, that big-ass smile on his face.”

Benjamin said he sensed Newton’s infectious smile the first time he spoke to him – on the phone.

“You could just tell how he was talking to me,” Benjamin insisted. “You knew he was special.”

Anderson, who has been in the league since 2005, said he hasn’t been around a player with charisma quite like Newton’s. Anderson saw it on Wednesday night, hanging out with Newton and reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry after Golden State’s win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Anderson saw it after players in high school, college, the NFL, NBA and other sports began dabbin’ after Newton did the Atlanta-based dance following a touchdown three weeks ago at Tennessee.

“He has an influence on the game right now that only certain guys have,” Anderson said. “Everybody is running with it.”

The Panthers certainly are. There’s arguably not a looser group in the NFL, and Newton is a big reason why.

“Whenever you stop having fun with it, it becomes an issue,” Anderson said. “Most guys play best when they’re loose, having fun, playing the game.

“Cam brings that to us.”

Third-string quarterback Joe Webb said Newton has become “an idol to a lot of people” across the country. Webb has seen why while participating in some of Newton’s foundation events with kids.

“When he walks in a room he brightens up the whole place,” said Webb, who dressed as an elf and helped Newton deliver Christmas presents around Charlotte last year. “He smiles, he plays with all the kids. Good spirit.

“When you have that good spirit everyone wants to be a part of it.”

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