Carolina Panthers running backs Christian McCaffrey, Fozzy Whittaker and Jonathan Stewart recently surprised a grieving widow at Bank of America Stadium by serenading her with the classic Bill Withers survival song “Lean on Me.”
The moment was captured in a video posted on Facebook, which shows Lynn Leonhardt of California stepping into a room where McCaffrey and Stewart are waiting at keyboards.
When Panthers rookie McCaffrey hits the first few chords of “Lean on Me,” Fozzy Whittaker walks in and begins singing, tweeking a few lines as he goes.
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“Call on the Panthers, when you need a friend," Fozzy sings. “We all need somebody to lean on.”
Leonhardt covers her face and cries almost instantly, recognizing the song and its meaning. Her husband, Kirk, died suddenly in late March from a previously unknown heart condition, media outlets report.
“All I could do was blubber and cry,” she told RiotReport.com. “Through all the horrible anguish, to have friends this amazing, through football, come together and surround me with love and support. It was humbling and just an amazing experience.”
At the end of the song, the three running backs are seen hugging Leonhardt and presenting her with a bouquet of flowers.
The Roaring Riot fan organization, along with some Leonhardt’s close friends, arranged the event, after learning she would be taking a tour of the stadium. She was accompanied by family and a group of other football fans.
The three haven’t said yet now long they spent rehearsing the song, or whose idea it was to create a band. “We had heard she was an unbelievable fan and unfortunately,” Christian McCaffrey told RiotReport.com. “She’s had to deal with some tough circumstances and so, we just thought it would be great to do something for her and that came to be mind. We had a blast doing it, and to see her reaction was pretty inspiring,”
Fans gushed on social media after the video was posted Tuesday. It had 16,000 views in 16 hours.
“I didn't know the Panthers could sing. Beautiful,” wrote Carolyn Hart of Winston-Salem on Facebook.
“One more reason I love my Panthers. Always doing for others out of the goodness of there hearts!” posted Suzanne Lytle Beatty.
“Thank you Panthers for showing the heart that some of the NFL players have. So proud of what you did for this grieving woman,” wrote Tami Schiefer Mckinley.
“There’s a lot of class and compassion on that team. Love me some Panthers,” wrote Rick Wilkinson of Durham.