CHARLOTTE — At a Florida church in 2007, Louis Murphy and Cam Newton found they had much in common.
Coaches at the University of Florida, where both were on the football team, paired Murphy and Newton in the team’s mentor program. Each was the son of a preacher.
“We hung out all the time, talked all the time,” Murphy said. “We were close friends. And for whatever reason we hit it off immediately.”
When a kid at the church told Newton he looked too big to be 17 years old, Murphy found something else they shared.
“The kid was like, ‘When’s your birthday?’ And Cam said, ‘My birthday’s May 11,’ ” Murphy recalled. “I’m like, ‘Man you got to be lying. That’s my birthday, too.’
“He looked at me and said, ‘We’re in church, why would I lie?’ ”
Since that day at the Florida church, Newton attended two other colleges, won the Heisman Trophy and was drafted No. 1 by the Panthers. Oakland drafted Murphy in the fourth round of the 2009 draft, and he started for the Raiders for three seasons.
“He always reached out to me just to check on me and see how I was doing, and when I was at Auburn nothing changed,” Newton said. “We would always try to see each other in the offseason and work out when we had time.
“He’s been a very, very influential person in my life as far as knowing what to expect coming into this league, how to have a great work ethic and just taking care of your body because this is a long season.”
Sunday, the Raiders will visit Carolina in a game Murphy has had circled on his calendar. A trade a week before training camp brought him to the Panthers, but it didn’t leave him time to say goodbye to former teammates.
When he got to Spartanburg, he found a familiar face: Newton’s. This is the first year they’ve shared a locker room since Newton left Florida during Murphy’s senior season.
The two worked together in August, with Murphy digesting the Panthers’ playbook and staying after practice with Newton to establish their rhythm.
Murphy has caught 21 of Newton’s passes for 274 yards and a touchdown.