Hometown heroes: Local connections to Super Bowl include four former winners and Panthers notes on Sunday’s big game
By Richard Walker
As the nation prepares to watch Sunday’s Super Bowl matching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Kansas City Chiefs, four local products stand alone as previous winners of arguably the most signature annual athletic event in the country.
Shelby native Bobby Bell, Gastonia native Scottie Patton, former Gardner-Webb standout Gabe Wilkins and Cramerton native Perry Fewell have played or participated for winning teams.
Bell, a 1959 graduate of old Cleveland Training School, was a Hall of Fame linebacker who played in the first Super Bowl for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs lost the inaugural Super Bowl 35-10 to the Green Bay Packers, but Bell and many of his teammates returned three years later in Super Bowl IV to help the Chiefs win 23-7 over the Minnesota Vikings.
Patton, a 1986 Ashbrook High graduate, is the only two-time champion. A trainer for the San Francisco 49ers, Philadephia Eagles and New Orleans Saints, Patton picked up title wins in Super Bowl XXIX for the 49ers (in a 49-26 win over the San Diego Chargers) and in Super Bowl XLIV for the Saints (in a 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts).
Wilkins, who played at Gardner-Webb from 1990 to 1993, played in back-to-back Super Bowls for the Green Bay Packers, who beat the New England Patriots 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI and lost to the Denver Broncos 31-24 in Super Bowl XXXII.
And longtime NFL assistant coach Perry Fewell, a 1980 South Point High graduate, was defensive coordinator for the New York Giants when they beat the New England Patriots 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI. Fewell also has been an assistant coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers and interim head coach for the Bills and Panthers.
Another local product advanced to the Super Bowl in Jim Washburn, a 1967 Shelby High graduate who played at Gardner-Webb from 1967 to 1970 before a long coaching career. Washburn was defensive line coach for the Tennessee Titans when they lost 23-16 to the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV.
One other local product won a NFL championship years before the Super Bowl had started.
George “Fluffy” Watts, a 1936 Shelby High graduate, played for the Washington Redskins when they beat the Chicago Bears 14-6 for the 1942 NFL championship.
The Carolina Panthers have played in two Super Bowls – losing 32-29 to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII and losing 24-10 to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
Entering Sunday’s game, the Panthers also have a 1-12 all-time record against eventual Super Bowl champions. A Tampa Bay win would make that record 1-14 since the Buccaneers won twice over Carolina this season and would drop to 1-13 if the Chiefs win since Kansas City beat Carolina this season.
Carolina’s only win over an eventual Super Bowl champion?
It came in 2009 at home against the New Orleans by a convincing 23-10 margin.
Should Tampa Bay win, the Panthers would look to improve on their 9-11 all-time record against defending Super Bowl champions next season as they play the Buccaneers home and away next year; Carolina does not play Kansas City next season.
As for Sunday’s games, both teams have Carolinas connections.
For the Chiefs, kicker Harrison Butker was drafted by the Panthers in the seventh round of the 2017 draft, offensive tackle Mike Remmers played three years for the Panthers (2014-16), wide receiver Sammy Watkins played at Clemson (2011-13), cornerback Antonio Hamilton is from Johnston, S.C., and played at South Carolina State (2013-15), cornerback Bashaud Breeland is from Allendale, S.C., and played at Clemson (2011-13), cornerback Rashad Fenton played at South Carolina (2015-18), linebacker Dorian O’Daniel played at Clemson (2014-17), linebackers coach Matt House worked at North Carolina (2003-04), Gardner-Webb (2005) and the Panthers (2008) and defensive backs coach Davie Merritt played at Raleigh Millbrook High School and N.C. State (1990-92).
And for the Buccaneers, inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell played for the Panthers in 2013, cornerback Ross Cockrell played at Charlotte Latin, at Duke and for the Panthers in 2018 and 2019, punter Bradley Pinion played at Northwest Cabarrus High School and Clemson, cornerback Ryan Smith played at North Carolina Central, kicker Ryan Succop played a Hickory High School and South Carolina and wide receiver Jaydon Mickens played for the Panthers in 2019.