CHARLOTTE – Devin Funchess has played at Ford Field in Detroit once before: the state championship game when he was a junior at Harrison High School.
"I didn't really do nothing that game. I had like two catches," Funchess recalled with a smile. "Our defense had a great game."
Look at him now.
The Michigan native is coming off his best game as a pro – a two-touchdown performance against the Patriots – as he prepares for his first homecoming matchup against the Lions.
"I'm really excited," said Funchess, who will have about 100 people at the game supporting him. "I've got food coming for everybody at the hotel. I'll get to see some family and relatives I don't get to see too often. It's going to be fun."
Funchess has emerged as a prime target at just the right time to showcase his ability in front of family and friends.
With All-Pro tight end Greg Olsen sidelined with a broken foot, Funchess has stepped into a larger role – and that's resulted in 19 targets the last two games.
"I'm like a basketball player on the field – the more opportunities, the more plays I get, the better I am probably going to do, because I heat up and get comfortable," Funchess said. "I didn't have that many reps my rookie year, last year I didn't have that many, but now I am getting a lot of reps so everybody can see what I can really do."
Fellow wide receiver Russell Shepard is seeing the emergence up close.
"He's playing with confidence and he's establishing himself," Shepard said. "I know you don't want to just jump on someone's bandwagon after one game, but man, to see how this young man is growing and knowing his talent level, playing in that environment against two premier corners – I'm excited to see this dude go back home and do it.
"A guy with his range and being able to bend, he can beat press man-to-man, he can get in the slot and do things that typically a guy his size can't do. I told him prior to the season – there is only one guy I've been around with his measurements that can do those things and get separation, and that's (former Tampa Bay wideout) Vincent Jackson."
Of course Funchess is enjoying the increased opportunities. Every wide receiver wants the ball thrown their way, and the former Michigan Wolverine wants to show out on Detroit's turf.
But even if Funchess has just two catches in his return trip to Ford Field, he'll take it so long as the end result is the same as that state championship.
"I'm not a selfish guy," Funchess said. "I'm always about the team and the W."
Especially this particular W.
"Him being from Detroit," quarterback Cam Newton said. "I know he wants this win extremely bad."