Reason 1, I was born in Greensboro, NC, on March 22, 1972 and grew up in a trailer in Reidsville. My parents were the oldest children of large families in rural NC. My family was poor and life was hard. As in most of the South there wasn't much of anything until the 1990s. That's when things finally started to improve and the city of Charlotte started blossoming into a wonderful city and professional sports crept into our lives. Although I played many sports, Football was always my favorite to play and to watch. When the Panthers came, it took me about 1 full season to mentally switch from my old favorite team, (Minnesota Vikings) to my new one. It was wonderful to finally have a team of my own that I could identify with locally. A team that carried a part of me in their name. I have always been and will always continue to be proud to tell everyone who asks that MY team is the Carolina Panthers. Even if I no longer live in Carolina. My heart will always carry a part of Carolina with me wherever I rest.
Being a Carolina Fan isn't easy. We've had highs and lows. We have been luckier than many of the newer franchises in that we've at least found some success quite early in our existence. Compare to most teams, we've been very fortunate in this regard. When we look across the NFL, the most successful organizations have had many more years to reach their level of success and I'm grateful for our few incredible moments and especially those players that made it possible. Almost none of our greats were ever suppose to be great and yet they were. That's what it means to me to be a Panther's fan. We've been blessed with so many great players who nobody believed in and yet they still made us great from time to time. My all time personal favorite was Steve Smith. Probably because I'm short too and I always heard that I was too small to play and I just loved him as a player and he's still the only jersey I wear. The little guy full of fight always seemed to represent our team to me. Charlotte, the small market team that shouldn't be good but sometimes is. (but will always be dismissed because, well, you know, it's the South.)
Reason 2, Mr. Tepper. No, I don't mean Dr. Pepper. I'm speaking about our glorious owner. Now I will always be grateful to the previous ownership for bringing an NFL team here and for the success we had here but Mr. Tepper is clearly a different type of owner. The fact that we have a "new" team all starts with his acquisition of the team and the philosophy that he brought with him when he took it over. I greatly appreciate the fact that he didn't come in and just clean house. He came in like a business man. He knew what he wanted, he formulated a plan and he has followed through with his plan. He's been slow and methodical but he's made every move with patience which is rare these days and every move has been with the intention of improving everything that needs to be improved and he's put his money where his mouth is which only emphasizes his sincerity in this project.
He let the team he bought continue as it was on the field, giving everyone a fair chance to prove why or why not they should be here while he concentrated on the "business side" of the organization. To me, this not only showed respect to the organization but also intelligence. He gave himself time to see who we were and what we were and to better understand the operations at the time while creating a better financial situation which was the part he was most comfortable with. I believe it was this attitude that allowed him the opportunity to learn more about the organization, the community and the base as well as time to decide what he wanted and how best to find "his" people to put his vision into progress. This likely lead to Hurney staying one year more than most of us would like but I can understand the reasoning. One stable piece with relationships to the old to help bridge the gap with the new. Especially considering the new were all from the NCAA and mostly lacking NFL experience plus the outbreak of Covid. It was also an opportunity to see where his new coach's ideas fit with the old system. The first draft I believe was huge for solidifying our direction. I have no idea f this is true or not but I've always felt that Rhule wanted to draft in a way very similarly to what we did this year and Hurney wanted to do it the old way and that during the course of the year, Mr. Tepper was able to see that Coach Rhule was right. Exit Hurney, enter Fitt, who thinks like Rhule on how to draft.
Reason 3, Coach Rhule. I know it's too early to speak definitively but I think we won the lottery when we stole him away from NY. Going back through his whole career, from results to people's comments, I cannot find 1 negative thing about this man. From the moment he first spoke to us as fans, I wanted to believe. He's inspiring. He has a vison and a philosophy that he not only preaches but lives by and it seems obvious to me that his players not only understand it, but accept it and those who don't are shown the door. I'm okay with this because in my opinion it's obvious that the players who do have shown tremendous improvement. I do understand that it's only been 2 games but we all can see how much certain players have improved. Not just the rookies but veterans who are playing better than ever right now. I have to put this on their hard work and dedication and their belief in the system and culture that Rhule has/is creating. One last mention is the dedication he seems to have. Coach Snow, who has been phenomenal and appears to be a defensive Guru has followed him everywhere. The ex-players that have turned down other offers to come here speaks louder to me than any word I could give. Actions speak louder than words and men follow Coach Rhule. I think I can understand why based off what I've seen.
He always speaks about a philosophy. He has a plan and a belief system and everything he does is based off that system. Nothing is random. He believes in the system and he has surrounded himself with people whom believe in that system from GM to water boy and anyone that doesn't believe in the system and doesn't follow the system can go somewhere else. He's building a culture exactly like he said he wanted to and we can already see the results. We are not an elite team yet. We have many missing pieces and the process has only just truly begun but the base is already clearly there after a very short time and I only expect things to get better. To see the changes that we all can see, even the most apprehensive see them too, so soon is what has us all so damn excited so quickly. We all know it's too early to expect too much and that we've definitely still have some wholes to fill but the enthusiasm is there because we know that if we were so close last season the this team has to be very close to that last WC spot and especially with out schedule.
He's an admirer of Bill Parcells. I found a copy of his writings online and once you've read it you will realize how much of what Coach Rhule is doing is totally from his teachings. Bill Parcells was an incredible coach. I honestly believe that we have someone who will be remembered as one of the greats for his time. The Panthers are going to finally put Carolina on the map and teach the rest of the US to respect the South. Family, Unity, Strength. Keep Pounding, Ice up son the TRUTH HURTS!!!