Columbia welcomes Panthers, rain or shine

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A steady rain and the threat of thunderstorms couldn't dampen the spirits of faithful fans who braved the elements Friday to attend the Panthers Road Show in Finlay Park.

In the process, the fans lifted the spirits of Panthers players in attendance.

"As players, this gets us fired up," linebacker Thomas Davis said. "Even though the weather isn't good, it's a great turnout by the fans.

"We're excited to be here. And that's what today is all about – coming out here and showing our appreciation for them."

Cornerback Josh Norman, a native of Greenwood, S.C., was as determined as the fans to make it to Friday's event.

"We're probably an hour and some change from my hometown, and it's awesome to be here," Norman said. "Loyal, diehard fans – you'll never find any better than when you come down here. They're showing how much they love their sport and how much they love the Carolina Panthers."

Norman signed autographs alongside defensive end Colin Cole, who was accompanied on the visit by his wife and kids.

"This shows there's a commitment in the Columbia area to the Panthers," Cole said. "I'm excited to be a part of it. I know that we have some of the best fans in the league, so I'm not surprised at all."

The line to get an autograph from Davis included Al Johnson, a Panthers fan from Day One.

"T.D. is a hero of mine," Johnson said. "I have an artificial leg, and anybody who can come back from the kind of devastating injuries he's had, that's my hero. I believe in anybody that shows heart."

The players signed autographs for an hour before taking the stage to address the crowd. After the players talked up every position group in a defense that ranked second in the NFL last season, Davis predicted even better things for the Panthers in the near future.

"We understand that we left something out there last season," he told the crowd. "The organization did a great job of bringing in veteran players that know how to play the game and have a lot of football under their belt. I can assure you that those guys are going to step up.

"I can guarantee you that we will put on a better show this year than we did last year."

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