They came, they saw — and they’ll always remember.
At halftime of the Carolina Panthers’ fourth preseason game on Thursday night, a youth football team from Clover took the field and competed in a “Play 60 Bowl” as part of a youth-focused NFL initiative that promotes the idea of living an active and healthy lifestyle.
The Clover Blue Eagles, of the Clover Area Pop Warner league, played the Belmont Red Raiders. The teams got the chance to warm up on the Panthers’ practice field before each playing five offensive downs under the lights at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
“They actually walked through the tunnel that the Panthers come through when they come out onto the field,” said Joe Mayberry, the president of Clover Area Pop Warner and an organizer of the event. “The (NFL) players were still out there playing the game, so they took us over to the sideline behind the bench with two minutes left to go (in the second quarter), so the kids were able to sit out there and see their favorite players play.”
Mayberry said that the spectacle started and ended quickly, but that it was “really fun” nonetheless.
“Once they got down there, I think they were a little shocked at how big of a venue it was,” Mayberry said of the kids. “I mean, you got 70,000 fans out there cheering you on … It’s a once in a lifetime thing, that’s for sure. And the kids, they were amazing. Those kids were really overwhelmed with how great of an experience it was.”
Mayberry said that he has been an Oakland Raiders fan his whole life — but he also said that he’s warming up to the Charlotte-based organization.
“I can’t say enough about the Panthers,” he said. “I told them that they’re making me a fan with doing all this stuff for the kids.”
Zaire Washington, an 11-year-old football player from Fort Mill, was also part of the Panthers’ game-day entertainment on Thursday night. Washington was the designated “Keep Pounding Drummer.”