Panthers grant special wish for 4-year-old fan

4-year-old Adam Smith with his brothers, C.J. and Stephen.


by BOBBY SISK / NewsChannel 36

Posted on December 13, 2010 at 5:07 PM

Updated Monday, Dec 13 at 7:31 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers lost to the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, but another story at Bank of America Stadium had a much happier ending.

It involves a 4-year-old who loves his Carolina Panthers whether they're winning or losing.

Adam Smith's weekend as an honorary Panther started Friday with a pep rally and was followed Saturday by "Draft Adam Smith Day" at the Panthers' practice field.

"It was pretty awesome. This whole weekend has been over the top," said Adam's father, Greg. 

Greg Smith and his wife, Jennifer, adopted Adam from China earlier this year.

He suffers from spina bifida and has already had one surgery since he arrived in the United States in hopes of improving his mobility.

"This is a great story. His older brothers play football at Marvin Ridge High School, and he's just been home since February," Greg Smith said.

In his short time with his new family, Adam, who uses a walker to get around, has become addicted to football.

Sunday, before kickoff, he got to deliver the game ball. His excitement, even from high in the stands, was hard to miss.

Smiling from ear to ear, Adam told NewsChannel 36 his weekend had been good. It was also good for a team dealing with a tough season.

"It is a great opportunity that his family trusted us to bring a smile to his face," said Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith after Sunday's loss to the Falcons. 

Teammate Jordon Gross added, "You see such a special kid like Adam and it really puts everything into place. That is somebody who has it tough and he was smiling and so happy to be out there and be part of the team."

His family now has pictures of Adam getting a little advice from Coach John Fox. He has more photos with Smith and Gross as well as a group shot with the team. Adam even got to keep that game ball.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation planned the weekend. 

"Make-A-Wish came through for him big time," said Adam's father. "This kid has always had a wish to play football, and it was an inspiration from his brothers passed on to him, and he finally got to."

Adam went to preschool Monday still wearing his Panthers uniform. Even though he spoke only Chinese 10 months ago, his parents say his English is great and now he has a great story to tell his friends. 

And if the 1-12 Panthers need some inspiration, the Smiths are glad to offer it.

"They're winners in our book," Greg Smith said. "We love the Panthers."