Shortly after getting drafted in the second round by the Panthers, wide receiver Devin Funchess pulled up the NFL future schedules to see when Carolina would play his hometown Detroit Lions.
That day came Sunday for Funchess, and the third-year wideout made the most of it – just as he has the last few weeks in what’s looking like a breakout season for the player whom Cam Newton calls “Fun.”
Funchess, who grew up in suburban Detroit and played for Michigan, caught a game-high seven passes for 53 yards and a touchdown in his homecoming game at Ford Field.
Funchess had lots of friends and family in attendance for the Panthers’ 27-24 victory, and he responded with seven receptions for the second week in a row.
“When I was a rookie I looked up when we were going to play Detroit. I knew it was this year,” Funchess said. “It was exciting, man. I got everybody to the game and everybody had fun, and I had fun.”
Funchess was a bit of an enigma his first two seasons, failing to string many consistent outings together.
But with a combined 14 catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns in the wins at New England and Detroit, Funchess has posted the best two-game stretch of his career.
“He’s got big-play ability because of his size, his speed, his quickness,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said of the 6-4 Funchess. “Good hands, good concentration, good focus. He and Kelvin (Benjamin) can become a tremendous one-two punch.”
The highlight of Funchess’ day came in the final minute of the first half, when he snatched a rocket from Cam Newton on a broken play in the back of the end zone.
The 10-yard touchdown put the Panthers up by a touchdown, and represented what Funchess described as the toughest catch of his career – “from high school on.”
Funchess was asked what it made it difficult (besides Newton’s fastball).
“It was bodies going right in front of me and I had to figure out where the end line was,” Funchess said. “It was just hard.”
Newton said he was fired up for Funchess, who didn’t let his teammates forget where he grew up.
“All week all he’s been talking about, ‘Man, I’m going back home to the D,’” Newton said. “I really wanted it for Fun today and it’s good for him that he got to do in front of his hometown.”
Besides all the tickets he had to line up, Funchess said he felt the love from a lot of other fans inside the indoor stadium.
“I had to get a lot of tickets, but I still knew tons more people up there in the stands and I heard them. I saw them throughout the game,” he said. “It just felt good to be back home.”