CHARLOTTE – The most humid conditions of OTAs so far awaited the Panthers on Tuesday, but they brought the heat thanks in part to their newest teammate.
“When he’s on the field,” running back Christian McCaffrey said, “it gives you a little extra juice.”
The Panthers drew inspiration from Peyton Raper, an 11-year-old battling cancer. Peyton’s dream to be a Panther for a day came true thanks to the team and Make-A-Wish. McCaffrey, a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and his teammates drew just as much inspiration from the day.
“He’s got all the intangibles,” McCaffrey said. “Obviously with what he’s gone through, it really puts it in perspective. It makes you really want to go out there and work hard for guys like that.
“He brought a lot to us today – his energy, his enthusiasm – and it was a heck of a day. It really was an honor.”
Peyton hung with McCaffrey throughout practice but met other players in the locker room before practice and at a team meeting afterwards.
“It was great, practicing and meeting all the players,” Peyton said. “Hanging out with Christian is super fun.”
Peyton, who lives on the North Carolina coast in Sneads Ferry, has been diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare and highly aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. But that didn’t stop him from spending an unforgettable day with his favorite player.
“It’s absolutely amazing. It’s everything that he’s ever wanted,” said Peyton’s mother, Meghan Muscarella. “I’ve always heard that they do great charity work, but I never imagined it would be this amazing. I’m very impressed and thankful for them to do this because it’s going to mean the world to him for the rest of his life.”
Peyton’s father, Jason Raper, said the day’s event put a spring in Peyton’s step – quite literally.
“He sprang right out of bed saying, ‘Let’s go!’ and hopped right in the shower,” Jason Raper said. “It’s never been that easy to get him going in the morning.”