A Super Bowl team isn’t assembled overnight. Everyone plays a part. But these are the biggest building blocks in the Carolina Panthers’ success story (in chronological order):
Drafting quarterback Cam Newton, 2011. Former general manager Marty Hurney made the call, and it wasn’t an obvious decision. Newton won the Heisman Trophy and a national title at Auburn but played only one major college season as a starter. The Panthers passed on Von Miller, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Patrick Peterson and J.J. Watt, and hit the jackpot.
Trading for tight end Greg Olsen, 2011. Newton’s most reliable target and a team leader came from Chicago for a third-round pick in the 2012 draft. Thanks, Bears.
Luke Kuechly, 2012. The former Boston College tackle machine is one of the best block-shedders in NFL history, and always seems to come up with the big play. Fortunately, he lasted until the ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft.
The Josh Norman steal, 2012. Hurney plucked Norman out of Coastal Carolina with a fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft. The Greenwood native has blossomed into one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. The 2013 draft. Dave Gettleman’s first draft as GM yielded starting defensive linemen Lotulelei and Short with the first two picks, though not much after that.
Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell. The Panthers snagged guard Turner (LSU) in the third round of the 2014 draft and then signed Norwell (Ohio State) as a rookie free agent. They start on opposite sides of Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil to give Carolina one of the best interior walls in the NFL.
— Gene Sapakoff