There will be a sizable – and loud – group of fans not cheering for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday as the team plays its first home game of the season in Charlotte.
Blame South Carolina.
Specifically, blame Rock Hill, just 20 miles south of Bank of America Stadium.
Rock Hill has two stars playing for the other guys.
Jadeveon Clowney of the Houston Texans was the top pick in last year’s NFL draft and is without question the most recognizable Rock Hill native in America. And 10-year NFL veteran Johnathan Joseph, a Texans defensive back, is from Rock Hill, too.
Joseph’s mother, Diane, who was in Houston last week for the team’s opener, said that at least 100 family and friends and people from Joseph’s home church, Pineville AME Zion, are planning to go to Sunday’s game.
“It is right here close by to home – everybody wants to go,” Diane Joseph said. “We are so excited to have him playing here where so many people can go watch him. And not just Johnathan. People want to go see Jadeveon play, too. There is a lot of love for them here.”
Joseph graduated from Northwestern High School before playing at the University of South Carolina. He has never forgotten his hometown of Rock Hill, buying a church bus for Pineville AME Zion and holding a summer football camp for kids. Before he was a Texan, Joseph played for the Cincinnati Bengals. When the Bengals visited Charlotte a few years ago, more than 100 of his family and friends went to that game to cheer for him, too.
“Everybody who can be there will be there Sunday,” Diane Joseph said.
There are so many Johnathan Joseph fans going that there may be a special tail-gate before the game just for them. And family members are trying to get some shirts made up for everybody with pictures of both Joseph and Clowney on them so that all the other tens of thousands of fans will know why this group is cheering so much for the visiting team.
“We are proud of Jadeveon and his accomplishments, his whole family is proud like we are – Rock Hill is proud of both of them,” Diane Joseph said.
Before Clowney was an NFL player – although he missed much of last season with a knee injury – he was a University of South Carolina star and the number one high school player in America at South Pointe High.
Clowney is an iconic figure in sports. He is the subject of sports talk and TV shows coast to coast. His hits are Internet sensations.
And now for the first time as a professional, Clowney is healthy and will play close enough for his hometown fans to watch. His mother, Josenna Clowney, said she is going to the game and expects many others to attend, too.
One guy who will attend and cheer on both players is York Comprehensive High football coach Bobby Carroll. Carroll coached Joseph at Northwestern and later coached Clowney at South Pointe. Carroll is heading to the game early, equipped with a field pass to visit with his two former stars.
“I have those two kids – they are men now but they were kids when they played for me – on the Texans and I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Carroll said. “I am proud of them. But all of Rock Hill, all of York County, really is proud of them.”
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065