Notable firsts from preseason opener

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - For some players, Friday's preseason game against the Buffalo Bills was their first in an NFL uniform.

For others, it was their first in a Panthers uniform. For others still, they accomplished something for the first time in a Panthers uniform.

Here are some of their stories.

TE Brandon Williams: After not catching a pass during the regular season a year ago, Williams started his second NFL season with three catches for 50 yards – including a 31-yard touchdown in the game's final minutes.

"It was amazing, finally being able to see the end zone and getting some catches. It was a great feeling," said Williams, who estimated he received 50 congratulatory texts. "I didn't know what to do. I was just so excited. I guess I just threw the ball and flexed."

Williams was asked if he wished league rules still allowed players to dunk the ball over the goal post in celebration. Williams, who played college basketball, just laughed - though he has gotten in a few shots on Wofford's basketball court during training camp.

"We pass through the gym frequently, so I've shot around a little bit," he said. "Right now, I'm the champion of 'Around the World'."

Wide receiver Tavarres King, another second-year Panther who didn't have a catch last season, matched Williams with 50 receiving yards and led the team with four receptions.

G Trai Turner: The Panthers' third-round draft choice started at right guard and relished his first action – even with the start of it in the shadow of the end zone after the defense came up with a goal-line stand.


"My first NFL drive, we were backed up in our own end zone, so you have to go out there and be physical, be tough and make sure you know the snap count and be smart," Turner said. "It was a learning experience. I was just glad to get out there with the fellows and get my feet wet. Playing in my first NFL game, I couldn't be happier."

Turner played throughout the first half and in one series in the second half  – not an easy task but one he fully embraced.

"We have a saying: 'If we can get a guy to 5,000 snaps, he'll be ready to play,'" head coach Ron Rivera said. "We're working on that with Trai, so he needed to go a little bit longer."

Said Turner: "One thing I'm learning is that the more reps you get, the more comfortable you get."

CB Josh Norman: There weren't really any firsts for the Panthers' third-year cornerback – unless it was the first time he's ever picked off a pass with his eyes closed.

"I kind of closed my eyes. It was crazy," Norman said of his interception late in the third quarter. "I couldn't believe the ball was actually coming."

Perhaps it shouldn't have come as a surprise to Norman given that he intercepted four passes last preseason – twice as many as anyone else in the NFL. In addition to the interception, Norman led the team with six tackles based on press box statistics and had two passes defensed.

RB Fozzy Whittaker: The most recent addition to the roster scored two touchdowns for the Cleveland Browns last season, but that didn't make him any less excited about his two receptions for 10 yards and contributions on special teams.

"I want to show that I'm versatile, a guy that they can depend on in all aspects of the game," Whittaker said. "I was able to play a lot of snaps, able to help the team any way that I could. Special teams, offense – whatever it was, I just wanted to give it 100 percent to help our team."

Whittaker and undrafted rookie Darrin Reaves have been impressive at the running back spot, with Reaves scoring on a 6-yard scamper Friday.

For the record, Whittaker's legal first name is "Foswhitt."

"My dad's name is Foster. He wanted a junior; my mother did not," Whittaker explained. "They comprised and basically took 'Fos' out of Foster and fused it with part of my last name."

Related Content