Published: May. 25, 2022

Carolina Panthers History and Fun Facts

Since they’re still one of the younger franchises in the NFL, most fans don’t realize that there is a lot of Carolina Panthers history to unpack. The Panthers have been around since 1995 and have seen plenty of highs and lows, as anyone who’s purchased Panthers tickets over the years can tell you. For such a young franchise, a lot of interesting things have happened to Carolina, including some things that the average fan may not know. Let’s dig a little deeper into the Panthers with some fun facts and important notes about the team’s history.

Cats Win Out

As is the case with any expansion franchise, there were several options when selecting the nickname of the Carolina franchise. The Carolina Cobras, Cougars, and Rhinos were also given consideration. But in the end, it was the Panthers that won out. The name Panthers actually came from the son of the team’s original owner Jerry Richardson. His son Mark was always fond of the big cats with black fur, so Richardson named the franchise the Panthers.

Player to Owner Dream

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While he owned the Panthers, Jerry Richardson was unique among the NFL’s group of owners. He was the first NFL owner who also played in the league. Granted, his playing career was somewhat unheralded. Richardson was drafted in the 13th round of the 1958 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts. He played just two seasons with the Colts as a halfback and flanker, catching 15 passes for 171 yards and four touchdowns. However, Richardson did catch a touchdown pass from Johnny Unitas in the 1959 NFL Championship, a game the Colts won 31-16.

Starting Somewhere Else

It’s no coincidence that the Panthers are called the Carolina Panthers as opposed to identifying with Charlotte or a particular state. The franchise was meant to attract fans from both North and South Carolina. Every year the Panthers hold their training camp in Spartanburg, South Carolina, which is the home of Wofford College, where original owner Jerry Richardson played college football. The Panthers also played their home games during their inaugural season in 1995 at Memorial Stadium on the campus of Clemson in South Carolina before their home in Charlotte was ready.

Early Success for Expansion Brothers

The Panthers joined the NFL the same year as the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the two expansion brothers both experienced unprecedented success for new franchises. Both the Panthers and Jaguars ended up reaching their Conference Championship Game in just their second season. Carolina went 12-4 that year, earning a first-round bye in the playoffs before beating the Cowboys but ultimately losing to the Packers. The Jags also came up one game short of the Super Bowl, although both expansion franchises getting that far in their second season was previously unheard of in the NFL.

Coming Up Short in the Super Bowl

Despite losing in the NFC Championship Game in their second season, the Panthers have been to the Super Bowl on two occasions. Unfortunately, they’ve lost both games. First, the Panthers lost Super Bowl XXXVIII to the Patriots 32-29 in an entertaining Super Bowl that saw 37 points scored in the fourth quarter. However, the Panthers fell a little short against Tom Brady and the Pats. the Panthers got another chance in Super Bowl 50 and looked poised to cap off their 15-1 regular season with a ring. However, the team’s prolific offense ran into a historically good defense from the Denver Broncos, losing 24-10.

Youthful Mistake

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Carolina’s mascot is a panther named Sir Purr. He was an instant hit with fans but also lacked experience early in franchise history. That lack of experience showed during a game in 1996 when Sir Purr dove on a live ball that had been punted into Carolina’s end zone by the Steelers. It didn’t end up having a huge impact on the game, although the refs had yet to blow the whistle, so Sir Purr technically interfered with the game. Of course, the crowd cheered his effort, and the players, while a bit confused, laughed at the mascot mishap.

Unlucky 13

The coin toss in an NFL game is usually no big deal (unless it’s overtime). Whether a team wins or loses it, they seem to even out in the end. But don’t tell that to the 2012 Carolina Panthers. That year, the Panthers lost their first 13 coin tosses of the season. It was a clear indication of bad luck on a team that finished 7-9. Of course, the odds of winning or losing a coin toss are 50-50. But the odds of losing 13 in a row are 8,192 to one, which is a lot of bad luck.

How Sweet It Is

The Boston Red Sox are well known for playing “Sweet Carolina” by Neil Diamond at every home game at Fenway Park. But unbeknownst to a lot of sports fans, the Panthers have the same tradition. Every time the Panthers win a game at home, “Sweet Carolina” echoes throughout Bank of America Stadium to celebrate.

From Carolina to Canton

While the franchise is still young, the Panthers have had two former players inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The late Kevin Greene spent three seasons with the Panthers, including the last two of his career. Reggie White, one of the great pass-rushers in NFL history, spent the 2000 season with the Panthers in what would become his final season before retiring.

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