Post-touchdown celebrations in the NFL are often promotions of self – a time when players bask in the glory of finding the end zone in the national spotlight.
But there was none of that Monday night after Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess scored his first of two touchdowns in a 45-21 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Rather than hand the ball to quarterback Cam Newton for Newton’s typical gift to a fan after they connected for 28-yard score in the third quarter, Funchess approached Newton and pointed to his helmet. He then turned, raised his hand to his head and directed a military salute toward the crowd.
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Funchess pointed at his helmet because it featured the initials D.B., a team report explained Tuesday morning. The gesture was in honor of Dillon Baldridge, the 22-year-old Youngsville soldier who was one of three soldiers killed during an attack in Afghanistan in June.
The tribute came during the Panthers’ “Salute to Service” game. Funchess met the Baldridge family after practice Sunday, when the whole team met with families of fallen soldiers.
During the visit, Funchess told Baldridge’s mother that he would score a touchdown for her in the game against Miami.
“I’m two months older than (Baldridge),” Funchess said in his postgame interview. “He was a top-notch shooter – he was a sniper. His mom said he was the most joyful boy you’d ever meet. It was an honor meeting her. Just five months ago, he passed away. It was just an honor just to get in the end zone for her.”