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Carolina Panthers

Daniel High football makes memories at unified practice with Panthers

Daniel unified practice

SPARTANBURG – Watson Young and his Daniel High School football teammates brushed shoulders with the Panthers on Tuesday, taking part in their unified practice on adjacent fields at Wofford.

The offensive lineman with his whole future before him heeded some advice from Carolina's starting left guard, as Brady Christensen imparted some wisdom on a unique day of training camp practice.

"Just cherish every moment I have – in college and high school," Young said Christensen told him.

Watson Young

The Daniel Lions embedded with the Panthers during pre-practice warmups and stretches before conducting their practice simultaneously with the NFL team. They spent the morning in Spartanburg, heard messages from coaches and players, and had special viewers watch them practice when the Panthers took a break to observe. 

The event was part of the Panthers and NFL's Play Football Month initiative, which celebrates the game of football played at the grassroots level. 

"The team did it last year in camp, and everyone just raved about how fun that was," Panthers head coach Frank Reich said. "So (we) want to keep that tradition alive. I would imagine this will be a tradition that we'll keep going. The guys are into it. (It) gives us a little break; watching high school football is a pretty fun deal." 

Young and his Daniel teammates have something in common with a current Panther, defensive tackle DeShawn Williams, who attended Daniel and grew up in Central, South Carolina, a town of roughly 5,000 residents about five miles from Clemson University in upstate South Carolina.

DeShawn Williams, Jeff Fruster

Williams is returning to the Carolinas this season after a long NFL journey that brought him home.

"It's amazing just to see how far time has came," Williams said after Tuesday's practice. "We didn't have that, myself as a high schooler, but it just shows like this is bigger than me, just give inspiration to the high school guys.

"It really hasn't set in that I'm playing back home. But today, just to see the guys, they're looking up to me, and the coaches that were with me, that have seen me grow to right now, man, it's amazing." 

Young said doing drills alongside the Panthers inspired him.

Daniel unified practice

"It definitely shows me what it takes to actually want to get to this point," Young said. "I mean, as you can see, we were doing a lot of the same stuff they were doing, just like from a drill standpoint. So if I just work at it every day, I feel like we can go far this season, especially with the team that we have this year." 

Young will head to Appalachian State to play football after his last year of high school, and the Daniel Lions will start another football season later this month.

And Daniel's head coach, 2021 Carolina Panthers High School Coach of the Year Jeff Fruster, appreciated the opportunity.

"We had a blast today – I think that goes without saying," Fruster said. "Hopefully, the kids got a little better today with this experience. This is something that doesn't happen for many people in their lifetime. So we're very appreciative of the opportunity and thankful to the organization for having us here today. … 

"Seeing the star eyes in all of our players, most of them said, you know, 'How cool is this? I'll never forget this.' And they're absolutely right. I don't know of many people that get to experience this. So I doubt they'll ever forget this opportunity."

View photos from the Panthers' unified practice with Daniel High School (Central, S.C.) on Tuesday in Spartanburg.

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