Friday, August 26, 2016


I swear... God just loves blessing me.

For those of you who know me, you know I love me some Carolina Panthers football. Growing up, I was a little slow to really hitch my fandom to the Panthers. I was a big San Fransisco 49ers fan because I loved Jerry Rice and Steve Young. But in the 1996 NFL playoffs when the Panthers beat the Cowboys... I permanently became a Panthers fan 'til death do us part.

Fast forward to July 2016 and me posting my #PlayLikeAPanther photo on Instagram. The Panthers, in partnership with MillerCoors, were holding a contest to win a VIP trip experience at training camp.  After tons of entries, I actually won!

The winning photo that my amazing wife took.
So I was the social media winner. There was also a Hickory Tavern reverse raffle winner and 6 others who were employees of MillerCoors. We all gathered at Bank of America Stadium (aka The Vault) and our VIP experience began with a quick locker room tour. It was incredibly awesome because we were able to tour the locker room with all of the players' personal things there. We were told that was extremely rare so immediately we were feeling pretty VIP-ish. We then moved over to the visitor locker room and awaiting us there were our custom Panthers jerseys. As the young kids say... it was lit.



Reuben at Cam's locker. He keeps hot sauce in there.

Now before you start hating... ain't we fresh tho?!

Custom jerseys. 
Once we finished with the locker room tour, it was time to head down to Spartanburg, SC and check out some training camp action. Once we arrived, we immediately felt the jealousy coming our way as me made our way down to the field to catch the end of practice. As soon as practice was completed, we headed to our dorm rooms to receive our swag before eating lunch with some of the players. The lunchtime entertainment for the day was a magician who definitely entertained us all. Many of his card tricks left players confused and laughing.

Us blocking the jealousy directed at us.

Swagged out.

Players during lunch, magician not pictured.

Killa Cam in the straw hat. He is a large human being.
After lunch, we spent the rest of the day with Carolina Panthers ambassador and maybe now the second best tight end in Panthers history - Wesley Walls! We started with a Q&A style session and Wes shared awesome stories with us from his playing days. And these were the kind of stories every fan wants to hear from their favorite athletes. Stories that only players can tell. Microphones and NFL Films can't tell. The best story he shared was about his time playing with the Green Bay Packers and the Monday night game against the Oakland Raiders after Brett Favre's father passed. I'll never forget watching that game and thinking about how it was one of the best performances I've ever seen, but hearing Wes talk and reminisce about it gave me chills.

After Q&A, we hit the field! Wes took us through some drills and routes before we played some touch football. Wes played all-time QB, and of course, the game ended in a tie.

On day 2, we had an early breakfast, then made our way back to Charlotte. After a quick lunch Uptown at Blackfinn, it was time for another tour in the stadium. This time we met some of the people that make the Panthers go. Among those people were radio executive producer, David Langton, and award-winning, play-by-play announcer, Mick Mixon. While speaking with David Langton, I was able to step in the radio booth and call a play. I totally crushed it... but that's because I majored in Electronic Media/Broadcasting. So it wasn't my first rodeo.

Once the stadium tour was finished, it was time to relax in the Miller Lite Suite and watch the Panthers' practice during Fan Fest. Luckily, the off and on rain didn't deter our awesome fans and once the rain finally left, Fan Fest was much more enjoyable. Free food and drinks with leather seats and a great view of the field... equation for an awesome time. To make things even better, we went down onto the field. When you're on the sideline, you really get a true feel for how big and fast the players really are. They are not normal human beings. At the end of Fan Fest, we were able to head down to the tunnel and greet players as the exited the field. A few of them were clearly tired and not exactly in the mood to speak with fans, but many of them stopped and signed a few things for the few lucky fans there... including Superman himself, Cam Newton.

I don't win too many random contests very often, but winning the #PlayLikeAPanther social media contest was the perfect way to end my summer. With what felt like the longest offseason ever, I'm now officially pumped and ready for the Panthers' season! Super Bowl 51, here we come! #GoPanthers #KeepPounding!

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