SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Dorman High School football program is a powerhouse under head coach David Gutshall, who in his 25th season is aiming to take his team to the state championship game for the seventh time.
Thursday, however, Gutshall and his Cavaliers enjoyed a special moment on an even bigger stage.
"We know that less than one percent of people make the NFL, so for our kids and our coaches it's probably a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing," Gutshall said after his team took part in a joint practice with the Panthers at Wofford College, about 15 miles north of Dorman's practice fields.
"The Panthers players were super. It was amazing to see them interacting with their kids. I guess football is football."
Panthers players and high school players stretched alongside each other and did some individual work as well. It's the second consecutive season the Panthers have hosted a high school squad at training camp.
"It's an opportunity for us to give back to the community," head coach Ron Rivera said. "Earlier this year we gave a $200,000 grant to the City of Spartanburg for their fields, and today we had an opportunity to spend some time with these young men.
"It's a neat thing for our guys too, a chance to realize there's a certain responsibility they have."
There were a lot of smiles shared, like when Dorman quarterback Ben Batson – who wears No. 1 for a Panthers-related reason – met Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.
"This is like a dream come true – got to meet Cam Newton, take a picture with him. This is a good day," Batston said. "I was already pumped about the season. Now I'm even more pumped."
There were also moments that will benefit Dorman this season. Senior punter Micah Buckley, for example, got individual instruction from Carolina's punters. As he put their advice to use, each punt went farther than the previous one.
"Being able to shadow them awesome, getting one-on-one instruction on things they see that we don't," Buckley said. "They pointed out stuff I had never even thought about."
The Dorman players realistically had never thought about the possibility of sharing the practice field with an NFL team, but the memories of the day will last a lifetime but also help carry them through the upcoming season.
"It's hot everyday out at Dorman, and you get tired, sometimes don't feel like practicing," Dorman center Lee Cavendish said. "But this gave us more energy, got us more fired up.
"You've got to work hard every day, or you don't have a chance to be out here with these guys someday."
View photos of the Panthers and Dorman High School football players interacting during training camp practice.