If someone asked you to hone in on the one reason why the Carolina Panthers are a game away from playing in the Super Bowl, what would you say? Cam Newton's MVP year? The defense playing out of their skulls? The emergence of Greg Olsen? Their ragtag group of wide receivers playing at an incredibly high level to make up for the loss of Kelvin Benjamin? Wrong, wrong, wrong aaaanndd wrong.
The Panthers can credit their dream-like season to one establishment, and one establishment only: Waffle House. Yes, that glorious restaurant than makes all your waffle and pancake dreams come true has played an integral part in the Panthers' nearly undefeated regular season and post-season performance thus far. The Wall Street Journal has a piece this week documenting the special relationship between the two, and the bond is sweeter than the maple syrup they drizzle all over their favorite waffles.
Waffle House has apparently been a part of Newton's life since his time at Auburn, when then-offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn made it his go-to spot to eat after every single win, a tradition that continued when he rose to head coach of the Tigers. A brief Google search of "Cam Newton Waffle House" reveals multiple instances of Newton eating at the restaurant after big wins during his time in the NFL, like when the Panthers took down the New England Patriots in 2013.
Panthers running backs Mike Tolbert and Jonathan Stewart are frequent visitors to Waffle House, as is fullback Mike Zordich and defensive end Mario Addison. Safety Tre Boston says he hits up Waffle House twice a week. And when he was originally drafted by the Seahawks in 2014, wideout Kevin Norwood was distraught when he found out that the state of Washington didn't have a single Waffle House. The struggle was all too real.
So why is Waffle House such a big deal? Panthers players told WSJ that it's because the restaurant serves breakfast 24/7, a luxury for NFL athletes who have disjointed schedules and sometimes can't grab breakfast food at normal times. Norwood gives the example of rolling out of bed late in the morning on Tuesday, which is the players' off day during their work week. Most places don't serve breakfast that late, but old trusty Waffle House does.
If the Panthers win the Super Bowl, Waffle House might have to ask for its own championship ring.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock