SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Travelle Wharton had wrestled with the idea of retirement for a while, but in his heart he knew it was time.
On Tuesday at the Richardson Building at Wofford College, Wharton said that he had played his last game, making the announcement in front of family, friends and former coaches and teammates.
At the site where nine of his NFL seasons began, Wharton brought his career to an end.
"It was an incredible journey," Wharton said.
The recently-retired Jordan Gross, Wharton's good friend and the man he played next to on Carolina's offensive line for years, provided an introduction.
"When you look for a football player, you want somebody that's tough and physical and smart and durable and can take a beating and dish one out as well," Gross said. "The Panthers definitely got that when they drafted Travelle in 2004 in the third round."
Wharton spent nine of his 10 years in the NFL with the Panthers (2004-11 and 2013). He signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012 but suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason.
He played in 115 games with 111 starts, lining up primarily at left guard. Wharton is one of only 16 players to appear in 100 games for the Panthers and one of only eight to start 100 games. He was a road-grader in the run game, a dependable and productive force in the trenches.
For a kid from Fountain Inn, S.C., playing every game of his professional career for the Carolina Panthers was a dream almost too good to be true.
"I couldn't have dreamed of a better situation," Wharton said. "It doesn't seem that long ago I was in Fountain Inn, and we hear that we have a professional football team.
"The whole region went crazy that we had one. Man, 10 years later, I am part of that team. I was able to represent home. Not only was I able to represent my family with my name on the back of my jersey, but I was able to represent where I'm from across the front. That meant a lot. Got a lot of ticket requests, but it meant a lot."
Wharton then looked to his left at Panthers Owner / Founder Jerry Richardson.
"Mr. Richardson and family, thank you for your vision of bringing a first-class organization to the Carolinas," Wharton said. "I'll always cherish it. It's been great."
Like Gross, Wharton won't be far removed from Panthers football.
The pair is set to co-host a talk show on the Panthers Television Network on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel. Additionally, Wharton and former Panther Kevin Donnally will host the network's postgame show on Sundays.
"It's bittersweet hanging them up, but I'm just seeing the game from a different angle now," Wharton said. "It's time for the next chapter."