Former Carolina Panthers shine in epic Chiefs-49ers Super Bowl in Las Vegas

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Some former Carolina Panthers shined in the epic show that was Super Bowl LVIII.

Supreme among them, perhaps, was Harrison Butker, the kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs who was drafted by the Panthers in 2017 and recorded a remarkable performance Sunday. He went perfect on field goal attempts en route to his team’s 25-22 overtime win at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, including a game-tying one late in the fourth and a Super Bowl-record 57-yard field goal in the third quarter.

Butker’s efforts helped deliver the Chiefs their third Super Bowl in five seasons.

There were several other former Panthers in Sunday’s spectacle.

Beloved ex-Panthers Christian McCaffrey and Steve Wilks, key parts of the San Francisco 49ers’ run to the NFL’s most prestigious and elusive stage, notched impressive performances.

McCaffrey finished the game with 22 carries for 80 yards. One of the most prolific running backs of the modern era also added eight catches, 80 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. McCaffrey, 27, was traded to the 49ers in 2022 and spent 2023 proving, in many ways, that he was still the same McCaffrey of old — the one who recorded 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in 2019 before injuries stunted his tenure in Carolina.

Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey protects the ball as he runs toward the end zone during the game against the 49ers at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, October, 9, 2022.
Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey protects the ball as he runs toward the end zone during the game against the 49ers at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, October, 9, 2022.

Wilks did an admirable job Sunday, too. The 49ers’ defensive coordinator helped keep Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce largely in check for most of Sunday.

A win would’ve meant a lot to Wilks — but also to the city of Charlotte. The 54-year-old coach is a Charlotte native, graduating from West Charlotte High School in 1987 before playing college football at Appalachian State and beginning his coaching career at Johnson C. Smith in the 1990s.

He’s since spent more than 25 years coaching in the NFL, spending a bulk of that time with the Panthers. He was the defensive coordinator for the Panthers on the 2015 team that reached the Super Bowl but didn’t win it. He was also the defensive coordinator and interim head coach after Matt Rhule was fired early on in 2022, and he was ultimately passed over for the head job in favor of Frank Reich, and then found a home in San Francisco afterward.

The win would’ve delivered Wilks and McCaffrey their first Super Bowl.

Panthers Head Coach Steve Wilks points toward the stands as he walks off the field after a win over the Lions, 37-23, on Saturday, December 24, 2022.
Panthers Head Coach Steve Wilks points toward the stands as he walks off the field after a win over the Lions, 37-23, on Saturday, December 24, 2022.

Butker, McCaffrey and Wilks weren’t the only contributors with ties to the Carolinas on the NFL’s biggest stage. Some others: Playmaker Deebo Samuel for the 49ers notched three catches for 33 yards, 49ers defensive tackle Javon Hargrave added three tackles and a sack and Chiefs tight end Noah Gray added two receptions for 22 receiving yards.