Black and Blue Review

Black and Blue Review

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On a Field Filled With Panthers, the Biggest Hero Stands Tall

The biggest screams from the Bank of America Stadium stands Friday night were yet again reserved for Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly. But the most popular adult among players after Fan Fest was Master Sergeant U.S. Army Cedric King (retired).

By now, you may have seen the video of Newton literally giving King the shirt off his back. Yet other warm moments weren’t caught on film.

There was the smile that ran across Ron Rivera’s face when he saw King, who in 2012 was first invited by Carolina’s head coach to speak to his team.

IMG_8089A bearhug from Greg Olsen was followed by a visit from a beaming Jonathan Stewart, a guy who rarely openly beams about anything.

“All these guys have been so good to me, inspiring me to fight every day,” said King, who lost both his legs and part of his right arm when he stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan.

He was then interrupted by Mike Tolbert, who, putting his arm around King said:

“It’s all love right here. This man has the utmost respect from all of us. He’s the reason we’re here.”

The circumstances couldn’t be more different, but the feeling appears mutual.

“[Tolbert] saw me on Day One. I got back from Afghanistan, got blown up. I’m in a wheelchair, bandages everywhere, and they’ve seen me from there till now,” King said.

“Every day I have to put these legs on, and when I wake up and see the guys working hard, it means everything. When I know when someone else is working hard, regardless of what’s going on, I get up and make things happen.”

It’s neat to watch professional athletes act excited around others. A couple weeks ago, Panthers’ defensive backs Josh Norman and Tre Boston turned into fans when soccer superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic was in Charlotte.

On Friday, Newton was back to being the most popular guy in town, a week after he had talked about not wanting to come across as untouchable.

“Here’s what you need to know about Cam: That guy takes time out. He’s the most famous guy, but he takes time out for individual people,” King said. “He makes individual people feel like a million bucks. The same way that all these people make him feel, he wants to make that one person feel the same way.”

As players disappeared into the tunnel one-by-one, King began to walk toward the opposite exit. He’ll be back around his heroes — the ones who know who the true hero is — soon enough.

“They are real friends, not just football players,” King said. “They’re real men and real friends.”


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