SAN JOSE, Calif. – Head coach Ron Rivera wishes there was some way he could have attended a significant homecoming event last week, but he was busy getting ready for a homecoming of epic proportions.
Rivera couldn't make it to the 30-year reunion of the Chicago Bears team that ran away with Super Bowl XX because he was preparing to lead his Carolina Panthers into Super Bowl 50 – a game that happens to be taking place mere miles from where he grew up.
"I've been very fortunate that this is in my hometown area," Rivera said. "I've had an opportunity to visit with my family. My parents came up yesterday, and they were completely amazed about this whole event.
"Knowing I'm very close to home and also where I played college football and where I met my wife, and having the opportunity to come back here now and compete in the Super Bowl is really a neat experience. I really do appreciate this."
Rivera was born in Fort Ord, Calif., and played at Seaside High School, less than 80 miles from the site of Super Bowl 50. He attended college at the University of California.
While Rivera's upbringing helped make him the man and coach he is today, so too did his playing days in Chicago. During the Bears reunion he managed to connect with former teammates in a small way at least, calling into the event and saying hello.
At the site of the Super Bowl, Rivera is around his other football family. While he's kept in contact with many of his Bears brethren from back in the day, he's built similar relationships now five seasons into his tenure with the Panthers – relationships of a professional and personal nature that have helped Rivera's team arrive at this momentous moment.
"The coaching staff we have, most of the guys have been with us from the beginning," Rivera said. "There is a continuity that I think helps the players. We've been able to maintain and keep the same styles of offensive and defensive styles of football. Special teams is the one area we've really worked to get better, and I think we've done a good job of it down the stretch.
"I think knowing a person a little bit more intimately is important. You can't really develop that kind of relationship of trust until you've been around each other for a while."
View photos of the Panthers during their media session at the San Jose Convention Center.