CHARLOTTE – Two Sundays ago, when the Panthers' team plane landed in Charlotte after a 27-10 win at Tennessee, a round of applause suddenly erupted from the back of the plane.
Defensive end Kony Ealy grabbed his luggage and rushed down the aisle with tears of joy in his eyes. His first child was on the way – a week earlier than expected.
Ealy hopped on a plane bound for St. Louis and landed in time to see the birth of his daughter.
"It's like no other feeling in the world," Ealy said. "It's really amazing. I'll cherish that. That's my world right there.
"I kept the coaches alert about the situation. They did a great job of making sure I was able to get there. That means a lot to me, and I appreciate the Panthers organization for that."
Life is good right now for Ealy. The second-year defensive end has recorded a sack in each of the last four games, and head coach Ron Rivera has credited him for maturing as a player on and off the field.
Now, he's a proud father.
"That's another added motivation for me to go even harder," Ealy said. "It's going to take my game to another level."