Scott Fowler

Panthers’ One-Touchdown Club is 46 members strong with oddities and a Hall of Famer

Kevin Greene said of hs 66-yard fumble return against the St. Louis Rams in 1996: “ Toward the end, I literally stopped breathing. I was straining with every muscle in my body.”
Kevin Greene said of hs 66-yard fumble return against the St. Louis Rams in 1996: “ Toward the end, I literally stopped breathing. I was straining with every muscle in my body.”

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One touchdown in a Carolina Panthers uniform.

It’s a dream for many — standing in the end zone as an official raises both arms skyward and the crowd roars.

For 46 Panther players over the franchise’s history, that dream came true — but just once.

As the Panthers begin their 25th season, I decided to look back to find out exactly who belongs in the team’s one-touchdown club (let’s call it the OTC).

In an OTC dotted with obscurities and oddities, I also found one NFL Hall of Famer — former Panthers linebacker Kevin Greene.

There were 19 defensive players, which makes sense. For defenders, a touchdown is a rare jewel. The remaining 27 on offense were riddled with players whose NFL careers didn’t quite work out the way they wanted.

What all 46 shared was that one moment of Carolina glory, whether it was from 1 yard away or 100.

All of these touchdowns have a backstory.

One came courtesy of a trick play now commonly known in Panthers’ lore as “The Annexation of Puerto Rico,” named after a play from the 1994 movie “Little Giants.” One player believes his deceased mother had a direct role in his TD. Another won a game against New Orleans in 2013 that many Panthers fans still remember as one of the most memorable ever played in Charlotte.

I interviewed a half-dozen members of the OTC. Here’s how they each remember their only TD as a Carolina Panther.

Kevin Greene fumble return 1996
Kevin Greene said of hs 66-yard fumble return against the St. Louis Rams in 1996: “ Toward the end, I literally stopped breathing. I was straining with every muscle in my body.” DAVID T. FOSTER III

Greene’s screaming dive

The game: Panthers 45, St. Louis 13; Oct. 13, 1996 in Charlotte.

The situation: Carolina led 7-0 in the first quarter, but St. Louis was driving. The Rams faced a third-and-11 from the Carolina 18 when quarterback Tony Banks dropped back to pass. He was sacked by the Panthers’ Shawn King and fumbled the ball backward.

Greene picked up the fumble and sprinted 66 yards into the end zone, diving the final 5 yards. Although Greene netted two other TDs in his 15-year NFL career, this was the only time he crossed the goal line for Carolina.

In his own words: “I was just beating on this tackle from Nebraska named Zach Wiegert for that whole game,” Greene said. “It was an absolutely huge play by Shawn King to get the ball out, and I saw it, scooped it and started running.

“Remember, I was an old man by this time — 34 years old, although I still did lead the league in sacks that year [with 14.5]. I remember looking over my shoulder, gauging whether anyone was going to chase me down, and then I turned back and just started screaming while running down the field. Toward the end, I literally stopped breathing. I was straining with every muscle in my body.

“When I got to about the 5, I knew I was done. I thought I was about to get caught. I just dove for the end zone, hit on my shoulder and rolled over. I sucked the life-giving air into my lungs, and I heard the crowd, and I celebrated.”

Where is he now? Greene went into coaching after his playing career ended and won the only Super Bowl ring of his career as a Green Bay assistant, working under his former Panthers head coach, Dom Capers (then the Packers’ defensive coordinator). Greene was an assistant coach for the New York Jets last season. Now 57, he lives in Florida with his family. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

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Carolina Panthers cornerback Dante Wesley (23) runs toward the end zone after picking up a fumble on a New Orleans kickoff return in 2008. Wesley’s TD was key in a 33-31 Panthers win and was the only touchdown of his nine-year NFL career. JEFF SINER JEFF SINER - jsiner@charlotteobs

Wesley’s mother

The game: Carolina 33, New Orleans 31; Dec. 28, 2008 in New Orleans.

The situation: Ahead 16-3, Carolina was kicking off, and Dante Wesley was on the kickoff coverage team. A New Orleans fumble on the kickoff bounced right to Wesley, who picked it up and scored from 16 yards out. It was the only TD he would score in a nine-year NFL career (seven with Carolina).

In his own words: “I was raised in a single-parent household, by my Mom, in Arkansas. We were close, and every time we played in New Orleans, she came. It was about a six-hour drive for her.

“But she wasn’t present at this game. We had buried her about two weeks before that. She was 52. She had gotten cancer, and it had just eaten her up.

“On that kickoff, I was running downfield and Landon Johnson hit the New Orleans guy and the ball bounced right in front of me. I just picked it up and kept on running.

“I feel sure my Mom helped with that touchdown. She couldn’t be at the game, but I think she popped that ball right to me.”

Where is he now? Wesley and his wife, Renetta Wesley, have written a book about maintaining a healthy relationship that is called “Facts: Faith, Attraction, Communication, Trust and Sex in a Professional Sports Marriage.” They have two children and live in Texas, where Wesley is a stay-at-home dad.

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Carolina Panthers fullback Richie Brockel (47) celebrates his touchdown run against Houston in 2011. Brockel was the beneficiary of one of the greatest trick plays in Panthers history, commonly known as “The Annexation of Puerto Rico” due to its resemblance to a play run in the pee wee football comedy “Little Giants.” Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The Annexation of Puerto Rico

The game: Carolina 28, Houston 13, on Dec. 18, 2011 in Houston.

The situation: The Panthers led 14-0 late in the second quarter and had a second-and-6 from the Houston 7-yard line. The Texans had the NFL’s top-rated defense at the time, but Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski thought he had a trick play that would work. It involved Richie Brockel.

Brockel was a fullback/tight end who was used mostly as an extra blocker in short-yardage situations. He was a physical player who Cam Newton had nicknamed “The Mauler.”

On the play, four of the Panthers’ offensive linemen remained standing, as if discussing what to do. Center Ryan Kalil then bent down and quickly snapped the ball to Newton, who slipped it between Brockel’s legs and took off to the right, trailed by wide receiver Steve Smith for what looked like an option run.

Brockel waited for Houston’s defense to flow toward Newton and Smith, then ran left, scoring untouched for what would be his only NFL touchdown ever.

In his own words: Said Brockel: “I was technically a fullback on that team but really an extra offensive lineman — my teammates teased me and called me a ‘full-guard.’ We had run that a little in practice, but I didn’t really think we’d call it.

“On the play before, Cam had thrown me a short pass in the flat, and I got hit by Brian Cushing and I hurt my groin a little bit. I was thinking, ‘Oh, no. Right before this huge play, and I’m not 100 percent?!’

“What sold it was the offensive line, standing there like there was nothing going on. The linemen really were happy for me; they kind of lived vicariously through me on that, since I was almost one of them. If you Google me or ‘The Annexation of Puerto Rico,’ that play still pops up somewhere.”

Where is he now? Brockel, 33, lives with his wife and their two young children in Boise, Idaho. Brockel has worked as an accountant but has recently made a career change, becoming a realtor.

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The Panthers’ Domenik Hixon (87) hauls in the game-winning touchdown pass from Cam Newton against New Orleans with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter in 2013. Hixon’s TD was the only one he ever scored for the Panthers. David T. Foster, III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Hixon’s heroics

The game: Carolina 17, New Orleans 13; Dec. 22, 2013 in Charlotte.

The situation: The Saints and Panthers both entered with 10-4 records. It poured rain for much of the game, contributing to a defense-oriented contest in which Carolina trailed 13-10 when the Panthers got the ball back for the final time. The Panthers had no timeouts, 55 seconds and Steve Smith — their best wide receiver — on the sideline with a knee injury. Little-used Domenik Hixon, who only had three catches all year, took Smith’s place.

The Panthers drove to the New Orleans 14, where they faced second-and-10 with 28 seconds left. Hixon ran a “7” route to Cam Newton’s left, angling toward the front corner of the end zone.

In his own words: “It was a rainy day and I wore leather gloves instead of the usual ones because they grip better in the rain,” Hixon said. “For me, it was almost like the story was telling itself. Steve ended up getting hurt or I wouldn’t have been in. On the play, the Saints blitzed, and Cam threw into the blitz [where the blitzing Saints player would have been], which is something they coach. I had one-on-one coverage because of the blitz, which is all you can ask for.

Cam threw it in a place only I could catch it, low and away. I dove and was 99 percent sure I got my hands under it, but until the video replay came on, I wasn’t completely sure.”

Where is he now? Hixon lives in Pensacola, Fla. He is captain of a fishing charter boat called “Super Bowl Fishing.” (Brockel has been on the boat before and said he brought in a good haul). Hixon also is an assistant football coach at a local high school in Pensacola. He and his wife have a 6-year-old son and are expecting a daughter.

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Carolina Panthers tight end Luther Broughton (84) fights off St. Louis Rams defender Roman Phifer in 1998 following his reception of a Steve Beuerlein pass. Broughton scored on the play from 68 yards out. JEFF SINER

Broughton’s stiff-arm

The game: Carolina 20, St. Louis 13; Dec. 20, 1998 in Charlotte.

The situation: At 2-12, the Panthers were in the middle of an awful season and two games away from firing Capers. Carolina trailed 13-10 late in the fourth quarter. With a second-and-10 at his 32, quarterback Steve Beuerlein found tight end Luther Broughton, who got behind the St. Louis defense and scored from 68 yards, fending off the only would-be tackler with a stiff-arm. The TV cameras flashed to Panthers owner Jerry Richardson in his box after the score, as the normally stone-faced owner smiled and applauded.

“Even Jerry Richardson is clapping now!” the TV announcer noted.

In his own words: “Wesley Walls had hurt his hand earlier that season,” Broughton said. “There was no need for him to play in the last two games, because we weren’t making the playoffs. So I started.

“Beuerlein loved throwing me the ball, even in practice. He was a good veteran QB who didn’t ignore the young guys. We lined up on the play in a set that we had run a screen off of the last two weeks in a row. I had a Charlotte guy guarding me — Roman Phifer. He kept yelling and pointing, saying: ‘Watch the screen! It’s coming!’ As soon as he said that, I knew Beuerlein was coming to me.

“I just outran Phifer. Beuerlein looked right to keep the safety over there and then came back and dropped it into me. Phifer was running full speed to get to me, and he was fast, so I thought, ‘I’ll just stiff-arm him.’ I did. When I scored, everything got quiet in my head. I couldn’t hear anything for like five seconds. My first NFL TD and it was a 68-yarder to win the game?! Incredible.

“In the end zone, I had no idea what to do, so I just did a terrible dance.”

Where is he now? Broughton scored four more NFL TDs, all for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Furman product now lives in Charlotte. He has worked in the mortgage industry since his football career ended.

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In 2003, Panthers defensive end Al Wallace played with his young daughter at Carolina’s training camp following a practice. JEFF SINER jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Wallace’s scoop

The game: Carolina 52, Cincinnati 31; Dec. 8, 2002 in Charlotte.

The situation: Cincinnati led 7-0 early in the first quarter, but a Todd Sauerbrun punt pinned the Bengals on their 4. On the first play of the series, Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna mishandled the ball. Al Wallace can take it from there.

In his own words: “This was my only touchdown in the pros, but I used to score a lot in high school,” Wallace said. “I was a wide receiver then, although I got recruited to Maryland and quickly was converted to an outside linebacker and defensive end. I made some better athletic plays than this one in the NFL — I had four interceptions as a defensive end in my career, and I returned one of them for 53 yards. Anytime you get to touch the ball as a defensive end that’s big; we’re down there where all the ugly stuff happens.

“On this play, Mike Rucker caused it. He was coming around the other end, and suddenly the ball was on the ground. I scooped it up and kind of took a big dive and I was already in the end zone. I was just so excited I didn’t know what to do — I just ran around with the ball still tucked under my arm.”

Where is he now? Wallace lives in Charlotte and is an entrepreneur who has his hand in several businesses: He works as the color analyst for the Charlotte 49ers’ radio network and also makes appearances on the Panthers’ postgame radio show. With his wife, he also runs an event planning and catering company that focuses its work primarily on underserved communities.

THE CAROLINA PANTHERS’ ONE TOUCHDOWN CLUB

Players are listed in alphabetical order. Current Panthers are in bold.

Player Position Years as a Panther

1) Kyle Allen QB 2018-current

2) Rashard Anderson CB 2000-01

3) Jason Avant WR 2014

4) Gary Barnidge TE 2008-12

5) Don Beebe WR 1995

6) Brandon Bennett RB 2004

7) Brenton Bersin WR 2014-17

8) Tre Boston S 2014-16, current

9) Richie Brockel TE/FB 2011-15

10) Luther Broughton TE 1997-98

11) Bob Christian FB 1995-96

12) Kaelin Clay WR 2017

13) Thomas Davis LB 2005-18

14) Drayton Florence CB 2013

15) Rod Gardner WR 2005

16) Charles Godfrey S 2008-14

17) Kevin Greene LB 1996-98, 1999

18) Roman Harper S 2014-15

19) Jimmy Hitchcock CB 2000-01

20) Domenik Hixon WR 2013

21) Dwayne Jarrett WR 2007-10

22) Colin Jones S 2012-current

23) Shawn King DE 1996-98

24) Greg Kragen NT 1995-97

25) Ken Lucas CB 2005-08

26) Chris Manhertz TE 2017-current

27) Tim McKyer CB 1995

28) Ernie Mills WR 1997

29) Kindal Moorehead DT 2003-07

30) Legedu Naanee WR 2011

31) Chris Ogbonnaya RB 2014

32) Winslow Oliver KR/RB 1996-98

33) Dino Philyaw RB 1995-96

34) Jamal Robertson RB 2004-05

35) Russell Shepard WR 2017

36) Rod Smart KR/RB 2002-05

37) Dwight Stone WR 1995-98

38) Shaq Thompson LB 2015-current

39) Iheanyi Uwaezuoke WR 2000

40) Josh Vaughan RB 2010-11

41) Al Wallace DE 2002-06

42) Dante Wesley CB 2002-05; 2007-09

43) Melvin White CB 2013-14

44) Will Witherspoon LB 2002-05

45) Vince Workman RB 1995

46) Jarius Wright 2018-current

Sports columnist Scott Fowler has written for the Charlotte Observer since 1994. He has authored or co-authored eight books, including four about the Carolina Panthers. In 2018, Fowler won the Thomas Wolfe award for outstanding newspaper writing. He also is the host of the Observer’s hit podcast “Carruth.”
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