The Carolina Panthers have had a tradition of the “Sunday giveaway” since 2011, when quarterback Cam Newton established the idea of giving away touchdown balls in his rookie year.
Normally, those footballs go to delighted children. But on the road, where there aren’t as many Panthers fans to choose from, players are more liable to present the football to an adult in a Panthers jersey.
That’s what happened when Jonathan Stewart handed off the touchdown ball he scored with Sunday on a 9-yard screen pass from Newton. Stewart made a beeline to a Panthers fan wearing a No. 25 jersey in the end zone, and in doing so the running back unknowingly made a very good choice.
I wrote about Panthers fan Daniel Solomon – who ended up getting that ball from Stewart – less than two weeks ago. Solomon is the guy who came up with the “ATL LED BY 25” Panthers jersey, which drew major laughs at Carolina’s last home preseason game and even started trending on Twitter. Everywhere he walked during that Pittsburgh-Carolina exhibition, people laughed at the joke on his back.
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A military veteran who lives in the Raleigh area, Solomon has had Panthers season tickets for the past four years and has been a fan of the team since its inception in 1995. He generally attends one road game a year with his brother, Brannon, and this year they picked the game against San Francisco.
“I got lots of compliments on the jersey out there,” Solomon said.
The brothers were seated down low near one end zone when Stewart scored right in front of their seats early in the third quarter to extend Carolina’s lead to 20-0 in a game the Panthers would ultimately win 23-3. But Brannon Solomon had gone to get a drink and so he missed what happens next, although he saw it on the TV monitors.
Normally, Newton gives away the touchdown footballs, but Stewart likes to hand them out himself when he scores.
So after Stewart somersaulted into the end zone on a 9-yard TD, he took the ball and ran straight at Solomon – who caught the whole thing on a video that he would later post on YouTube. Solomon even managed to take the handoff from Stewart with one hand while filming with the other and not fumble either the ball or his smartphone while screaming “Yeah, baby!” repeatedly, which is no easy feat.
Anyway, I thought it was cool that Solomon ended up with a football.
He has given a lot of Panthers fans a little bit of joy when he walks by them with that jersey – which teases the Panthers’ rival, the Atlanta Falcons, for blowing a 25-point lead in the most recent Super Bowl.
So Solomon was due a little good karma from the Panthers. Lo and behold, he got it.