Emma Mowers, Staff Writer
Remember when Julius Peppers played for the Carolina Panthers? A hometown boy from Wilson, North Carolina. Peppers played college football at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was a unanimous All-American. He also spent 8 years as a defensive player for the Panthers before going on to play for the Chicago Bears. Peppers now plays for the Green Bay Packers but he still has a history with the Panthers, however he never had the chance to play under Cam Newton.
On Sunday, November 8, 2015 in the Bank of America stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Packers took on the undefeated Panthers. The Packers went into this game knowing it would be a challenge.
In the second quarter, after Newton scored a touchdown, the former Panthers player- and Packers defensive end- Julius Peppers took the football from Newton and tossed it to the other side of the end zone to a ball boy. Cam Newton then retrieved the ball and handed it to one lucky Panthers fan, Colin Toler.
Many of the people in attendance at the game saw what happened. Cassie Barringer, senior at Wingate University, was sitting in an aisle seat in section 226 and vividly saw Peppers take the ball from Newton after he scored. “I was shocked at first and thought – did he really just do that?” said Barringer.
Newton has made this a tradition following a Panthers touchdown, as many football fans have seen. Although, no one knew at the time that Colin, who received the touchdown football, had recently lost his father. Barringer said, “I had no idea that was the boy whose father had passed away. I don’t think a lot of people did.”Some say it was God looking down on Toler.
Usually Newton takes the ball to the middle of the stands in the end zone to give it away, but if it had not been for Peppers taking the ball from Newton and throwing it across the field, Newton would not have gone after the ball. This led Newton to section 105 near the corner tunnel exit; where Toler was seated. Colin’s Grandfather brought him to his first NFL game, to fulfill a promise that his father, Benjamin Toler, had made before he passed on Sept. 30 due to a heart condition.
Following the release of the story, Colin became a social media hit. Giving away footballs is not unusual for Cam Newton. He has been doing this since 2011, after every Carolina touchdown. Newton calls it his “Sunday Giveaway” program. Although it was ironic for Newton to give the ball to Toler, because Newton was not aware of why Toler was there.
After interviewers spoke to Colin Toler’s mother, they found out that Toler’s father also had a connection with Julius Peppers. Toler’s father was in Greensboro, North Carolina for the NCAA basketball regional. Peppers, who then played for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was playing tournament. Benjamin Toler was standing near the exit to the court when Julius Peppers tossed his wristbands to him after a game.
Irony and luck is what happened to Colin Toler. With the holidays right around the corner, we need to remember to be thankful for what we have; family, friends, jobs and our health. Keith Hall, father of senior Wingate student, Sydney Hall, attended the game as well and had another interesting point to add. “The players wore initials of fallen soldiers and during half time they presented jerseys to the families.” said Hall.
Edited by Rob Gay and Kyndra Sanden