CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — While some Carolina Panthers fans were sitting through a driving rainstorm in last month's home finale against the New Orleans Saints, Tech Sgt. Neal Harvey was also pulling hard for the home team.
The Air Force veteran just happened to be sitting outside in 19-degree weather in Kandahar, Afghanistan, watching the game on television in the middle of the night.
"The television is in a common area," said the 35-year-old Harvey, who serves with the 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group. "I was the only one outside watching."
Harvey passed up some sleep to watch Cam Newton's last-minute touchdown pass lead the Panthers to a victory over the Saints en route to the NFC South title. Because he was likely the only one awake when Newton hit Domenik Hixon with a 14-year TD pass with 23 seconds left, Harvey's celebration was very subdued.
"I remember jumping up and down but not screaming because I knew people were sleeping, so I had to improvise," he said.
Harvey said he went to bed at 2:30 a.m., got up at 5 and felt just fine.
"I was so hyped up still that I was OK," he said. "I wasn't dragging. I wasn't tired."
Harvey's loyalty to the Panthers was also rewarded when he received a package of Carolina paraphernalia as well as a letter from coach Ron Rivera, thanking him for being a fan and for his service to his country.
"I thought I was reading it wrong," Harvey said of discovering the letter inside the package. "I kind of froze, It was kind of cool."
Harvey said the letter was just like meeting the third-year head coach in person.
"I see him every Sunday on TV. I go online to see some of his postgame interviews. It felt like I knew him," Harvey said. "More than anything, it was like he shook my hand. He really didn't, but that's what it felt like. It makes a lot of things over here worthwhile, to know that you're appreciated."