CHARLOTTE – So, Richie Brockel, with the Panthers set to face the Houston Texans in the regular season for the first time since your first season in Carolina, anything about that last matchup come to mind?
"I had a good special teams tackle," Brockel said. "I think I had a catch, too."
Rather than a play on special teams or a catch, Brockel is perhaps best known for a special play that really caught on. In Week 15 of the 2011 season, the tight end scored his first – and to date – his only NFL touchdown on a trick play affectionately called "The Annexation of Puerto Rico."
"The last time I actually watched the video all the way through? It might have been that year," Brockel said. "It pops up here and there, but I never actually watch it."
Whether Brockel wants to relive it or not, it's definitely worth a watch.
On the play, from Houston's 7-yard line, Brockel lined up beside then-rookie quarterback Cam Newton in the shotgun. Newton took the snap and stealthily fed the ball to Brockel between his legs, then Newton took off around the right side of the line with most of the Texans defenders chasing after him. Brockel paused, then sped around the left side before the majority of the Houston defense had an idea what was going on.
"I was pretty excited – first touchdown in the NFL and first season here," said Brockel, who still has the ball from the fateful play. "And we had a good crew of guys that year, so it was a lot of fun to celebrate with them."
Brockel remembers being on edge when the play was called into the huddle, and it wasn't just because he rarely touched the ball.
"It didn't work well in practice," Brockel said. "Why do you think I was nervous?
"I was thinking, 'I better score,' because if you don't score, you're not going to get any more bones."
Brockel may not get another chance Sunday to surprise the Texans. He is listed as questionable, having just returned to practice Friday with a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the season opener.
Still, it's no surprise the play, named for a similar play in the 1994 movie "Little Giants," came up a time or two this week.
"A few people have tweeted at me about it," Brockel said. "It's not something I really think about. It's just a little piece of my career, and I'm fortunate to have played as long as I have to make sure I wasn't just a one-year wonder."