“Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”
John Wooden

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mike Ditka’s Lasting Influence on Ron Rivera

Rivera was a member of the 1985 'Super Bowl Shuffle' Bears, and he's finally recaptured some of that old magic in Carolina

By Peter King
January 21, 2016

The best team has a great sense of family.
The best family has a great culture.
Within that culture there is tremendous character.
— Ron Rivera’s mantra, repeated daily, to his team.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Blah blah blah character, blah blah sense of family and blah culture. Heard it before. All coaches at all levels in all sports say something like this every season, or maybe a few times per the season.
Do they say it every day? Do they also have it leading off a Power Point at the daily team meeting? Do they carry the message on a folded-up index card in a pocket during games, alone in the pocket, so it can be pulled out to remind the team about family and culture and character if need be?
Rivera does. He doesn’t care how corny and hackneyed it is. It’s a feeling he got in his second season as a player in the NFL, with the Super Bowl champion Bears and coach Mike Ditka in 1985, the Super Bowl Shuffle Bears. And it’s a feeling he’s been chasing ever since—in every coaching job he’s had, and certainly in this one, with the Panthers, who will host the Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. It’s the first conference title game ever in Charlotte. You can credit many people for the Panthers playing the biggest home game in their history this week, but the more people you ask around here, the more say it’s not happening without the steady and nurturing hand of Rivera.
“When I talk about family, and culture, and character, I know what a lot of people think,” Rivera says. “But to me this game has so much to do with building a family. I think back to that ’85 team, which was different than any team that Coach Ditka had. That ’85 group of guys loved each other. And in ’86 it was different. Even though we were better statistically, ’85 was about a family and we never recaptured that. This team right now seems to be capturing that family sense. As a coach it’s exciting because you watch these guys and they go to dinner, they hang out, they go bowling, they go to the basketball games together. Guys have a charity event and 25 teammates show up. We bring Charles Tillman in this year, and he’s new, and he does this thing for the Wounded Warrior Project and 25 or 30 guys show up, but that’s the kind of group that we have.”
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