Panthers quarterback Garrett Gilbert, 27, is the leading candidate to be the backup to Cam Newton. 

8:12 AM ET

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Garrett Gilbert was a mess.

It was 2012, and the former high school phenom had transferred from the University of Texas to SMU after going 7-7 as the Longhorns’ starting quarterback and being demoted to third string. He admittedly spent too much time listening to the boos and reading negative articles.

His childhood dream of starring for his hometown team in Austin had turned into a nightmare.

His confidence was shot. The decision-making and accuracy that had made him one of the country’s top prospects a few years earlier needed an overhaul.

“When we got him at SMU, he had been through hell, I guess is a good way to say it,” said former SMU coach June Jones, now the head coach of the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. “So helping him through that whole situation and getting him back on track to how he was as a high school player took us a while.

“I knew he could play in the National Football League. I tried my hardest to get him there.”

It took a while, but

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