SPARTANBURG, S.C. –The youthful exuberance often on display at Panthers practices kicked into overdrive Thursday, when the organization welcomed the Spartanburg High School football team for an unprecedented joint practice between an NFL team and a prep team.
"It was awesome, not only for the kids but for us," linebacker Thomas Davis said. "It speaks volumes for this organization about how it tries to connect with the community and show the kids and families here how much we love and appreciate them.
"I know it's going to go a long ways in these kids' lives to have had this experience and know that they had an opportunity to practice with the Panthers."
Spartanburg High School coach Chris Miller addressed both the Panthers players and his team after practice, thanking the Panthers for making a dream come true for his team and himself.
"It's an unbelievable opportunity," Miller said. "They're doing the same thing we're doing, and we're constantly talking about and doing what we do. Now our kids see the guys who have paid the price and did what they were supposed to do and where it has gotten them.
"What, maybe what one out of all the guys we've got will get a chance (to play in the NFL), but at least they've learned how to fight and become better men."
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said the experience took him and his players back to where their journeys began.
"It was important for our guys that they got to remember what it took to get to where they are today. It all starts there, in high school and junior high and elementary school," Rivera said. "It kind of took me back to 1979 at Seaside High School. It was really neat.
"It's really about bringing football back to the community, having one of the local high schools interact with our players. It's about the love of the game."
View photos of the Panthers as they have a joint practice with the Spartanburg Vikings.