The Panthers go into Super Bowl XXXVIII as the underdogs, unknowns. People ask them where they are from.
One of the Panthers is
Carolina -- from Raleigh.
Not only that, but there is a Jaguar among the Panthers. And he's one mean cat.
Panthers offensive lineman Kevin Donnalley graduated from Athens Drive High School in 1986. The Jaguars since have retired his No. 76 jersey.
"As I remember him in high school, he was kind of tall and lanky," Athens Drive Athletics Director Ron Williams said. "He's not lanky anymore. He sort of filled out."
Donnalley is a 310-pounder who is hard to miss.
"He was quiet here at school," Williams said. "But, according to his classmates, he was one of the leaders of the pack."
Said former classmate Leigh Mobley: "He was a lot of fun, very easy to get along with."
Donnalley was considered very smart during his high-school days. But some people said he did not play very smart against the Rams a couple of weeks ago.
He had three costly penalties -- on consecutive plays -- that pushed his team away from the endzone instead of toward it.
As it turned out, there was no harm done; Carolina won the game, anyway, to stay in contention for a historic world championship.
This is Donnalley's 13th year in the NFL, his third year with the Panthers. He played college football at Davidson for two years before transfering to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for his junior season.
After graduating from UNC, he played for the Houston Oilers.
He has made 10 playoff appearances with the Oilers, Miami Dolphins and Panthers. But he's never played in the Super Bowl.
Now, at 35 years old and in the last year of his Carolina contract, Donnalley is headed back to Houston, a Super Bowl ring nearly in his claws.
"This is just amazing," Donnalley said after the Panthers beat the Eagles last Sunday in Philadelphia to punch their Super Bowl ticket. "It's my 13th year in the league, and you don't know how many opportunities like this will come around.
"It's so hard to put everything together and have things go your way. These last few weeks, we've been peaking at the right time."
The Jaguars who gave birth to this Panther could not be prouder.
"He has risen to the top of his game," Williams said.
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