As much as his prodigious natural talent, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has also impressed with his attitude in his short time in charge.
That has carried its way through offseason workouts in his second full season, and evidenced by his unwillingness to get into a bi-coastal war of words. Newton has clearly emerged as the leader of a young team, but to this day defers to others.
"It's a lot of people's team," Newton said.
That's admirable to say, but the reality is the Panthers' future as a franchise will be determined by how he develops. He's off to a fast start, having already been named the offensive rookie of the year, but he showed huge strides down the stretch, when he led the Panthers to four wins in their last six games to finish 6-10, a four-win improvement over the previous year.
"He's really maturing and becoming what you hope for in your starting quarterback," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "You're seeing a continued evolution based on what happened at the end of last year."
Unlike a year ago, when the lockout kept players out of facilities, Newton has an offseason to work on his craft.
Teammates have noted his constant presence, and willingness to dig in. That's going to enable the Panthers to evolve offensively, and to better use his unique set of skills.
"Last year (this time) I was just working out, with a couple of pages from the playbook to go by and that's it," Newton said.
"It's nothing like having an organized team function that you can talk to your coaches and ask them about the things that are going to make you a better player.
"To come out here every day and get some reps, mental or physical, is huge."
Newton also showed his maturity by staying out of a recent flap started by San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, who defended his own low passing totals by using Newton as an example of a passer who had to throw too much because of big deficits.
It wasn't entirely accurate, but that didn't keep a number of players from both sides from chiming in, including linebackers Jon Beason and Patrick Willis.
Newton deferred, another sign of a maturity some didn't expect.
And that, more than any title anyone could bestow, makes him the unquestioned leader.
"People will gravitate to who's been making plays and who's accountable and who puts a lot on their plate to make plays," Newton said. "So I think leadership will rise to the top.
"The playmakers are going to have to make plays; the leaders are going to have lead - if you have to ask yourself what you are, you're neither. So I think it's kind of a given who the leaders on this team are."