Panther Tracks

Ft. Bragg soldiers recognized for service with Super Bowl trip

SSG George Rodriguez (left) and SFC Michael Davids (right) in downtown San Francisco
SSG George Rodriguez (left) and SFC Michael Davids (right) in downtown San Francisco The Charlotte Observer

It’s been a longtime dream of two Ft. Bragg soldiers and long-time Carolina Panthers fan to see their team at the Super Bowl.

Because of a recent recognition of their services, the two officers, who’ve been Panthers supporters since the team’s inception in 1995, along with their wives, are enjoying an all-expenses paid Super Bowl weekend in San Francisco.

Staff Sgt. George Rodriguez serves with the 82nd Airborne Division and has been deployed several times during Operation Enduring Freedom. Sgt. Michael Davids serves in the 3rd Special Forces Group and has been deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

The two were recognized on the field for their military service and love of the team at the Dec. 13 Panthers game against the Atlanta Falcons in Charlotte. They were surprised there with a trip to the Super Bowl, well before anyone knew the Panthers were playing in the big game.

The two say they would have been excited to go even if the Panthers weren’t playing. But the Panthers went on to trounce the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game Jan. 24, sealing Carolina’s Super Bowl-bound fate.

“Just the opportunity to come to the Super Bowl is amazing. Add on the fact that the Carolina Panthers are here, it just adds that much more excitement for us,” Davids said Saturday in San Francisco, where they’re staying until Monday.

Davids has been a Panthers fan since he was eight and has helped turn his two young children into “obnoxious Panthers fans,” too – they have their own game-day suspicions, like needing to wear the same jersey and sweatshirt, he said. And Rodriguez said he’s been going to games with his wife in Charlotte ever since the team moved there from Clemson.

“You can tell this is a special team they have this season,” Rodriguez said. “You can tell they’re ready. It’s their time.”

Both officers say they particularly like tight end Greg Olsen and cornerback Charles Tillman, who comes from a military family himself and has visited Ft. Bragg a few times.

“We also met him down on the field when he gave us each one of his gloves during the pre-game when we found out we were going to the Super Bowl,” Davids said.

The trip was made possible by the Panthers, USO of North Carolina and Bank of America. Along with Super Bowl tickets, Rodriguez and Davids and their wives were gifted airfare, hotel reservations in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and a parking pass for Sunday’s game.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta