David Newton | ESPN.com
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The “Riverboat Ron” nickname has become so popular that Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera and his wife are looking for ways to use it to raise money for local charities.
They may even have it trademarked.
“It’s unbelievable,” Rivera said. “This thing has taken on a mind of its own. It’s kind of gone all over the place, and it’s one of those things that the moniker is what it is as far as trying to describe some of the decisions I’ve made.
“I kind of look at what I’ve done as just calculating it. But I will say this: My wife and I are going to try to figure out a way to use it to help benefit some of these charities out here that we work with. We’ve got to just keep rolling with it, I guess.”
Rivera was statistically one of the most conservative coaches in the NFL when it came to gambling on fourth down the past two seasons. He was criticized publicly for opting to kick a field goal that extended the Panthers’ lead to six instead of going for it on fourth-and-1 at the Buffalo 21 with 1:42 remaining in the teams’ Week 2 game. The Bills won 24-23, driving 80 yards to score a touchdown with two seconds left.
Since then, Rivera has been successful on 9 of 11 fourth-down plays. The Panthers (9-3) are 8-for-8 on fourth down during their league-best eight-game winning streak that has set up a Sunday night road game against the New Orleans Saints (9-3) for the NFC South lead. Rivera was dubbed “Riverboat Ron” after showing the instincts of a gambler when he successfully went for it on fourth-and-1 twice on Carolina’s first possession in a 35-10 victory at Minnesota on Oct. 13.
The nickname took on a new life after a Nov. 10 win at San Francisco. Jim Kennedy, a graphic artist from Raleigh, N.C., posted online a picture of Rivera as a riverboat gambler.
The picture showed him wearing dark sunglasses, a black Panthers cowboy hat and a blue Panthers jacket with a black vest and tie. In one hand he is holding a cigar; in the other are playing cards. In the background is a picture of Bank of America Stadium and the words “Riverboat Ron.”
Kennedy initially posted it to a Panthers fan page. Rivera’s daughter, Courtney, then posted it on Instagram and later turned it into a Twitter post.
She wrote: “I honestly could not resist. apparently this is a thing now. panther fans have given dad a new nickname and have even made photo edits! #isthisreallife #riverboatron #panthers #omg #peoplegottoomuchtime.”
Rivera didn’t care for the nickname initially but embraces it now.
Asked whether he might trademark the name in his effort to use it for charity, Rivera smiled and said, “That’s not a bad idea.”
“It’s been good,” he added. “It’s kind of taken a life of its own, so if we can use it to do something good, we certainly will.”
- Covered Panthers, NFL for 11 years
- More than 25 years experience covering NFL, college football and NASCAR
- Joined ESPN in 2006