Video: Panthers QB hands game ball to Rockingham boy

 ‘He hasn’t put the ball down yet’

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* See the video

For the players, the Carolina Panthers’ game Sunday against NFC South rival Atlanta was about getting the win. For Alex Yates, it was all about the experience.

Submitted photo Lea Dietch, of Rockingham, said her grandson, Alex Yates, hasn't stopped smiling since getting a game ball from Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Submitted photo
Lea Dietch, of Rockingham, said her grandson, Alex Yates, hasn’t stopped smiling since getting a game ball from Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

And boy, did the 11-year-old Rockingham have one.

Yates, a sixth-grader at Rockingham Middle School, was in the George Dome in Atlanta for the Panthers’ 34-3 victory over the Falcons that clinched the title in what is considered a mediocre NFC South division. Yates traveled to Atlanta with his older sister, Kaitlyn, 17, and their parents, John and Monica.

The Panthers will play at Arizona as NFC South division champions sporting a 7-8-1 regular season record. They are the first team to make the playoffs with a losing record since the Seattle Seahawks in 2010. Records, though, hardly mattered to Yates in the closing minutes of the first half.

First, his Panthers were winning 17-3. Second, quarterback Cam Newton was driving his team down the field again — headed right for him. With 1 minute and 47 seconds left before halftime, Newton scored on a 4-yard run up the middle. After a little dance, Newton did what he normally does — head for the fans.

“When he made that touchdown, and I knew what (Newton) was going to do, and I knew where they were sitting, I said, ‘give it to Alex, give it to Alex, give it to Alex,” recounted grandmother Lea Dietch, who watched the road game from a television in her Rockingham home. “And he did. He hasn’t put the ball down yet.”

Yates was wearing his Cam Newton No. 1 jersey replica to the game. But Yates had a trump card. As Newton approached the stands, Yates showed Newton the shirt he had on underneath — a Cam Newton Superman shirt. It was the proverbial winning ticket. Yates said that certainly didn’t hurt the possibility.

“I think it helped,” he said. ” He ran and gave it to me. I didn’t know what to think when it happened.”

Yates said the game tickets were a family Christmas present from his father. He’s hoping Newton will sign the ball this weekend when the Panthers host the Arizona Cardinals in a first-round playoff game.

The family has season tickets. Yates said he’s seen about six games this year. But this one is special.

“I think we’re gonna put it in a case,” Yates said. ”

Photo courtesy CarolinaPanthers.com Alex Yates reacts after Cam Newton scored on a 4-yard touchdown run and handed Yates the game ball.

Photo courtesy CarolinaPanthers.com
Alex Yates reacts after Cam Newton scored on a 4-yard touchdown run and handed Yates the game ball.

Yates will have one heck of a story to tell when he returns from winter break on Jan. 5. Chances are his teammates from AC Rock U12 traveling soccer team already know about it.

“I’m sure all of his soccer buddies are thinking, ‘wow, he got the ball,'” Dietch said. “I’m so proud.”

 

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Rockingham, Sports

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