When the Panthers were in Washington, D.C., last weekend to play the Redskins, Panthers coach Ron Rivera was told by a staff member of a wounded soldier from North Carolina who hoped to get the autographs of some players.
Sgt. Cedric King had lost both legs to an IED in Afghanistan so Rivera asked him to stop by the team hotel and arranged for King to have a pre-game pass to get on the sideline at FedEx Field.
“It’s unbelievable how positive this guy is,” Rivera says. “He said his basic motto is ‘I’m an optimist. Every morning I get up I think something good is going to happen to me.’
“He said, ‘Coach, this morning I had no idea I was going to come meet the team. (Sunday) I had no idea I would get to be on the sideline. And Monday I get my new legs.’ ”
When Rivera introduced King to his players, he stood back and watched.
“He comes in and has this wheelchair going about 40 miles an hour, and he races to the front of the room. The guys just start cheering for him,” Rivera says.
When Rivera asked King to tell the players why, despite his circumstances, he remains optimistic, King reiterated his story about expecting something good to happen each day.
“He said, ‘Coach, congratulations on your win in tomorrow’s game,’ ” Rivera says. “I said, ‘How do you know?’ He said, ‘Coach, something good is going to happen.’
“When he got done, the players gave him a standing ovation. It was tremendous with the energy he brought to the game.”
Then the Panthers went out and beat the Redskins 21-13, ending a five-game losing streak.
“We’re getting him a game ball all painted up, and we’ll send it to him,” Rivera said.