Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Welcome to Denver, N.C.

Russ Washington shows off one of the popular Cam Newton T-shirts he is selling at a roadside tent in Denver, N.C.

Associated Press

Russ Washington shows off one of the popular Cam Newton T-shirts he is selling at a roadside tent in Denver, N.C.

There are hardly any Broncos fans these days in Denver — not Denver, N.C., that is.

Instead, this unincorporated town about a half-hour from Charlotte is full of Carolina Panthers fans. And with the Panthers facing the Denver Broncos in Sunday's Super Bowl, the town is enjoying some extra attention as the self-described "Denver of the East."

"It's pretty cool, especially being a small town and all of a sudden that little small town is getting reporters and (being) recognized for having the name Denver," restaurant owner Michael Bryant said in a phone interview with the Associated Press. "Because just about everywhere you go, you say you're from Denver and you've got to explain where because people automatically assume you're from Colorado."

The Lincoln County town near Lake Norman is a fraction of the size of the Denver of the West, with 2010 U.S. Census data listing a population of about 18,000 for its zip code compared to around 600,000 for its larger namesake. But there are a couple of connections: North Carolina's Denver was renamed after Colorado's capital in 1873 as Colorado was being considered for admission to the union, according to the 2010 edition of the North Carolina Gazetteer.

And at East Lincoln High in town, the school's Mustangs mascot looks a lot like the Denver Broncos' logo.

But make no mistake: This Denver is a Panthers town.

"These last two weeks, if you've got a hat on, it makes everyone perk up and make sure it's not the Broncos, to make sure it's East Lincoln," said Mike Byus, East Lincoln's football and golf coach.

Bryant said his Sports Page Food & Spirits in Denver hosted a near-capacity 250 people for Carolina's NFC Championship Game win against Arizona, while roadside tents are popping up selling Panthers flags, shirts and other merchandise.

The Denver Fire Department bought into the buzz by making a wager with its Colorado counterpart on the game. The loser must fly the winning team's flag behind one of its trucks for a week.

Chief Jay Flynn cut himself off when saying which truck would fly a Broncos flag if the Panthers lose.

"Well, we're not going to be flying the flag because we're pretty confident the Panthers will win," he said.

Two time zones away, fire officials in Denver, Colo., had no hesitation in accepting the challenge.

"Oh heavens no," department spokeswoman Melissa Taylor said. "We're very confident in our Broncos."

Flynn said many Denver residents arrived with team allegiances elsewhere, though Carolina's 17-1 run behind NFL MVP candidate Cam Newton has been "infectious" and converted many to Panthers fans.

Still, there are pockets of resistance.

Byus said a golfer who happened to be a Colorado native was at the Verdict Ridge Golf & Country Club in Denver, N.C., recently wearing a Broncos hat. He immediately "caught a lot of grief" from nearly everyone there.

"I'm telling you," Byus said, "It's just Panther-crazy down here right now, man."

Welcome to Denver, N.C. 02/04/16 [Last modified: Thursday, February 4, 2016 9:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Video: Gordon Hayward's message to Celtics from hospital bed after gruesome injury

    Nba

    BOSTON — Gordon Hayward's face was etched in pain and shock.

    Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics sits on the floor after being injured while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. [Gregory Shamus | Getty Images]
  2. Rick and Tom podcast: Where does Winston rank among top QBs?

    Blogs

    Where does Bucs QB Jameis Winston rank among current NFL QBs this year? The result might shock you. Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down a new poll by Sports Illustrated in their latest podcast.

    Where does Jameis Winston rank among the NFL's top quarterbacks?
  3. Epilogue: USF's Mike Radomski made thank-yous a way of life

    College

    TAMPA — He was a sucker for baseball and benevolence. Mike Radomski tracked every gesture, regardless of how noble or benign, as meticulously as pitch counts in his volumes of scorebooks.

    Assistant director of communications Mike Radomski, who primarily served as the media liaison for men's basketball but also worked with several other Bulls sports, died shortly after 1 a.m. Oct. 12, 2017 in a car accident on Interstate 75 near his Wildwood home. He was 29. PHOTO PROVIDED.
  4. Cubs down Dodgers 3-2; force NLCS Game 5 Thursday

    Ml

    CHICAGO — Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, former Ray Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

  5. Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves: 'I'm not making any plays'

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Eli Manning gathered his receivers together on the sideline during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and told them he planned to target the weakest link of the secondary all afternoon.

    Patriots receiver Chris Hogan gets position in front of Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a 5-yard touchdown pass in New England’s win on Oct. 5.