‘It means a lot’: Panthers spruce up outside area at Harding High

CHARLOTTE — Several Carolina Panthers players came together off the field Tuesday to give back to students at Harding University High School in west Charlotte.

The team refreshed an area on campus by doing everything from laying down mulch to painting the picnic area in school colors.

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“Coming back to school, it’s been really rough on all the staff and the students,” said Bryant Bailey, Harding athletic director.

The school’s principal, Eric Ward, died in September.

“Losing him was a big,” Bailey said. “He was a big part of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.”

The Panthers fixed up the Rose Garden because that is where students spend a lot of time, Bailey said.

“Just knowing that what we’re doing, today, makes such a huge difference in their day to day,” said Nicole Tepper, Carolina Panthers ownership.

The Panthers’ head coach said being there was important.

“But to come out and give their time, to come out and be present, I think, hopefully, speaks into the lives of these young people at this school,” coach Matt Rhule said.

This project is one of the first in-person community activities done by Panthers players since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You know, a lot of people look up to us,” cornerback Stephon Gilmore said. “We have a big platform. So anytime we can come out and help people that need it in schools, it means a lot to us. It means a lot to the people that see us doing it and, hopefully, that means a lot to other people to help out and do the same thing.”

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