CHARLOTTE – Shy Tuttle held in his lifelong Panthers fandom throughout his first four years in the NFL – and as a defensive tackle for the division rival Saints, he didn't really have a choice.
Tuttle grew up in Midway, N.C., about 20 minutes from Winston-Salem and just over an hour from Charlotte. He idolized Carolina's stars, and couldn't hold back his grin while he rattled off a list of some of his all-time favorite Panthers moments after signing with the team he'd always supported.
"Steve Smith, Julius Peppers, DeShaun Foster, Stephen Davis, I can go down the line," Tuttle said. "It's definitely a cool feeling. Dream come true, for sure. I'm happy to be here; happy to be home."
The Panthers added Tuttle, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound lineman, to help bulk up the depth up front in new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero's 3-4 base scheme.
In four years at New Orleans, Tuttle played in 63 games with 33 starts – and he hasn't missed a game since 2020. He has come down with 143 tackles in his career, 9.0 tackles for loss, eight quarterback hits, 14 pass deflections, and 4.0 sacks.
The 27-year-old had his strongest statistical season last year, racking up a career-best 49 tackles with five pass deflections, three quarterback hits, and 1.0 tackle for loss.
He'll help bolster the front of the defense along with Derrick Brown, penciled in at nose tackle though he has some versatility to play across the line.
Tuttle was paying attention to the Panthers while he was with the Saints, and he liked what he saw last year.
"I'm excited to play with the whole defense," Tuttle said. "Good defense last year; they're trying to carry it over; new coaching staff trying to turn the thing around. So I'm excited. Like I'm a Carolina kid, Carolina through and through. I'm just excited to be home. I can't stop smiling."
And for general manager Scott Fitterer, bringing on Tuttle along with fellow defensive lineman DeShawn Williams in free agency made sense from a personnel standpoint, and coaches on the defensive staff had already locked their eyes on the two linemen.
"Those are the type of bodies that EJ and our defensive staff said, 'Hey, these are guys that we know, these are guys that we want. They fit the mentality that we want, the physicality that we want,'" Fitterer said. "They fit exactly how our defense wants them to fit. So Shy and DeShawn, those are guys that they pointed out, that they knew they wanted."
The fit ran even deeper from Tuttle's point of view. He's excited to slot in from an on-field perspective, and around the building, he already likes what he's seen.
"It's great vibes, good energy," Tuttle said. "Happy faces, smiling, wanting to get to know me, excited I'm here. I'm the same way; I'm excited about being here. I'm excited they're welcoming me with open arms. It's cool, definitely good energy around the building."
Now that he'll be around Bank of America Stadium, Tuttle has the potential to casually cross paths with the legends he grew up admiring. Even though he was always a bigger kid, Tuttle said he dreamed of being a wide receiver like Smith, one of his favorite players.
Tuttle hasn't met 89 yet, but he knows Smith comes back around to the stadium every so often. When asked if he might feel starstruck, Tuttle gave it a "maybe" with a laugh.
For now, he's taking in his first moments since becoming a Panther in his own right, and it still hasn't completely sunk in.
"It still hasn't really hit me yet," Tuttle said. "I think maybe the first game, or when I move to the city, stuff like that – living everyday life here, that's when it will settle in. But right now, I'm just enjoying it. It's still surreal, me being here. It's cool, though. I'm excited. I'm very appreciative, very thankful. Blessed for sure."
View the best photos of Shy Tuttle on set after he officially signed with the Panthers on Friday.