Calendars featuring NFL players often fall into two categories: Beefcake or action shots of 250-pound guys flying through the air.
Leave it to the Humane Society of Charlotte to come up with a third option, which goes on sale Friday.
Players and pets.
The world is about to see a whole new side to the Carolina Panthers, including the sight of 300-pound Ryan Kalil with a Chihuahua and quarterback Cam Newton with a puppy and a calico kitten.
Thirteen players (along with a few cheerleaders and coaches) are featured, some with their personal pets and others with shelter animals in need of adoption which explains how 6-foot-4, 305-pound Jordan Gross ended up with a kitten named Cake.
Humane Society leaders hope the project is just too darned cute for Panthers fans to resist. Theyve set a goal of raising $50,000 with the calendar to help more than 3,000 animals annually, including hundreds of sickly dogs and cats rescued from puppy mills.
Its no secret that nonprofits across the city are constantly lobbying the Panthers and its players for help, which makes the calendar quite a coup for the Humane Society.
However, the idea actually came from Stephanie Rivera, wife of Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera, who pitched it to the Humane Society. She then recruited her husbands support, and he gets credit for finding players to pose with the pets.
Among those featured: Jonathan Stewart, J.J. Jansen, Thomas Davis, Jeff Byers, DeAngelo Williams, Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, Charles Johnson, Luke Kuechly and Charles Godfrey.
The project is technically not considered an official Carolina Panthers charity effort, since the teams management has its own set of charity goals.
Its more a matter of Ron and Stephanie Rivera looking to give their own time and money to help out local charities. The Riveras, who moved here in 2011, have so far teamed up with the USO and the Ronald McDonald House for projects.
We also wanted to do something to help animals, and I happened to get a calendar from the National Humane Society and thought: Why cant we do a local one with players and shelter pets? says Stephanie Rivera. Ron loved the idea. He had done one before when he was a player, but it was not for charity.
As for how they found the right players, Stephanie Rivera says she talked to their wives or girl friends during meetings of a nonprofit group she helped start called Women of the Panthers.
The Humane Society jumped at the idea and suggested that players also be allowed to bring their personal pets.
Traditionally, animals dont fall in the giving guidelines of many corporations, foundations and major sports groups, said Shelly Moore, president of the Humane Society of Charlotte.
We had been trying to find a way to connect with players, because we know how passionate football fans can be. They want to know more than just how many touch downs a player made and how many yards they rushed for. Having players with their pets gives fans an insight into them as real people.
In some cases, the relationship of the players and animals is quite telling, she said.
Panther Charles Godfrey is photographed with his own pet, a bull dog named Carolina, which Humane Society officials described as the size of a tank and prone to chasing the 210-pound player around the photo studio.
Ryan Kalil was matched with one of the shelters animals, a 10-year-old Chihuahua named Charky who was rescued in July from a puppy mill in South Carolina.
Charky was in such bad health that hed lost all his teeth and had scars on his corneas.
Ryan Kalil was interested and wanted to know everything about Charkys story at the photo shoot, said Donna Canzano, a vice president at the Humane Society. You could tell by the way he held the dog that he knew it had been through a lot and was so fragile.
Kalil didnt end up adopting Charky, but someone else did no long after. He now lives with a Charlotte couple, officials said.
The Riveras are also featured in the calendar with their own dogs, a pure breed golden retriever named Fiyero and a terrier mix named Penny that the couple got from a shelter in the Chicago area.
I always wanted a dog that would fetch my newspaper and thats exactly what Fiyero will do. Unfortunately, if he feels hes not getting enough attention, hell start fetching everything else, says Stephanie Rivera.
As for Penny, shes the one who pushes everybody else around. As soon as Ron is home, shes on his chest trying. Theyre just part of our family.
Since the end of the calendar photo shoots in August, all but two of the featured shelter pets have been adopted.
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