SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said center Ryan Kalil’s prediction of a Super Bowl victory this season was “pretty cool.”
Kalil took out a full-page advertisement in The Charlotte Observer last week guaranteeing Carolina fans would be rewarded for their unwavering support with the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Richardson made a similar prediction when the Panthers received an NFL franchise in 1993, guaranteeing a Super Bowl win within 10 years — although it didn’t happen.
Richardson called Kalil “a man of conviction.”
“He didn’t say anything detrimental about anybody else,” Richardson said. “He just thanked his coaches and teammates and the fans and entire organization. I thought it was pretty cool.”
Richardson was honored during Monday night’s practice at Wofford College by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who proclaimed it “Carolina Panthers Day” throughout the state.
Richardson says he’s more excited about this season than any of Carolina’s previous 17.
One of the reasons for that excitement is the presence of quarterback Cam Newton, last year’s AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. In three days of training camp, the Panthers have drawn nearly as many fans as all of last summer.
“I think he has a lot to do with it,” Richardson said of Newton, the team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2011. “That’s life. That’s good luck. That’s good fortune.”
Richardson is expecting big things from Newton.
“He’s very engaging, he’s popular and he wants to win,” Richardson said. “As we all know, that’s a key position. And we think he has the potential to really be special.”
Haley said Richardson deserved to be honored. She presented him with a plaque for his commitment to South Carolina.
“We want Jerry Richardson to continue to understand that we love him being here and we want these players to understand we’re here to cheer him on,” said Haley, who had a chance to shake hands with Newton before practice.
“So many good things have happened in my life and pretty much they all came as a result of my association with South Carolina,” said Richardson, who attended Wofford and later begin to make his millions in the food industry by opening Spartan Foods here in Spartanburg.
Richardson always wanted the Panthers to be supported by two states, which is why he named them the Carolina Panthers instead of the Charlotte Panthers.
He continues to make sure South Carolina feels a connection with the Panthers.
This is Carolina’s 18th training camp at Wofford. Richardson’s Panthers held their first spring practice at Winthrop College in Rock Hill in 1995 and played their first season at Clemson while their stadium was being built in Charlotte.
“It was not geographically a smart decision on my part to play in Clemson,” Richardson said. “We should have played in the center of North Carolina, but we’ve always wanted to recognize South Carolina by actions, not just me standing up and saying something.”