Ron Rivera, wife talk Panthers football, home life ahead of Supe - | WBTV Charlotte

Ron Rivera, wife talk Panthers football, home life ahead of Super Bowl

WBTV's Molly Grantham with Carolina Panthers' head coach Ron Rivera and wife, Stephanie. WBTV's Molly Grantham with Carolina Panthers' head coach Ron Rivera and wife, Stephanie.
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

The Carolina Panthers are in California ahead of Super Bowl 50, but for the team's head coach, the trip is kind of like going home.

Ron Rivera met his wife, Stephanie, while in college in California.

Ron jokes that Stephanie was "stalking" him, she laughs as if she's used to hearing that joke.

But Stephanie was by Ron's side 30 years ago when he played for the 1985 Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears.

"I would say the 85 Bears was probably the first rock star Super Bowl team," she said during a sit-down interview with Molly Grantham before leaving for California. "They really – no one had seen anything like that before. In terms of the bravado and the um, making music videos."

Ron wasn't actually in "The Super Bowl Shuffle," which lives in infamy on YouTube, but agrees his former teammates were a cast of characters.

"Are you trying to build this current Panthers team that way?" Grantham asked. "Is your mission in ‘letting them be who they are’ based the 85 Bears?”

“Yes,” said coach Rivera. “The biggest thing we've talked about more than anything else is just keeping your personality. Don't try to be someone you're not. I believe a lot of my thought in that has to do with what Coach [Mike] Ditka always used to preach about being who we are. Having fun. Enjoying the game."

He said his former teammates from the 1985 championship team have been reaching out, proud of him and where he has taken the Carolina Panthers.

The Panthers have gone 17-1 this season, just one year after ending with a record 7–8–1. The Panthers are the first team in NFC South history to have back to back to back division titles.

It's the first time the team has been to the Super Bowl in 12 years, it's Rivera's third time - once with the Bears as a player, the other as an assistant coach with the Bears.

Coach Rivera believes in having mentors like Ditka and John Madden, who gave him this advice:

"We used to talk about how I was doing things by the book and he looked at me and said, 'Ron, there is no book.' He said, 'it's supposed to be about how you feel, how you think and what your instincts tell you'."

Rivera's wife, Stephanie, is a coach and athlete herself.

"Ron and I are able to talk about sports and wins and losses on a different level," she said.

She admits that she makes Ron talk more about work when he get home.

"She'll give me some very sage advice about things because she has been through a lot," Ron said.

"He's true and steady all the way. I mean, who he is as a coach and as a person, so that doesn't change," she added.


MOBILE USERS: Click here to hear more from the Riveras' interview

When it comes to the level of competition, Ron calls Stephanie the more competitive one.

"Someone put on the Internet this little test, which Panther are you like? And it's a personality description. So we both took the test. And she's like Thomas Davis, which is true!" Rivera said. "Because TD is the most competitive player I know. Okay. And I came out… Me. One hundred percent me."

The Riveras are riding high now, but it hasn't been an easy five years with the Panthers. Maybe no moment more impactful than last summer when Ron's brother Mickey, the man he calls his first teammate and biggest fan, died of pancreatic cancer.

Rivera says Mickey is in his mind every day.

"I got his picture in my closet, so every morning I start to get ready I just say good morning to him," Rivera said.

He believes that Mickey would be telling him "good job" and that the trip to the Super Bowl is exciting.

"It validates everything that we've done," Rivera said.

By "we", Ron means the Panthers organization, and its influential owner, Jerry Richardson.

Rivera says he knew Richardson would stick with him, even during the dicey seasons.

"He always said to me, 'Ron, at the end of the year we'll evaluate and I want to make sure we're heading in the right direction'," Rivera said. "And I knew we were in the right direction and he'd stick with me."

Rivera says the Panthers are definitely the right team, personalities and all, to bring home the Lombardi trophy. He just wants the guys to remember the team is what it's really about.

"You may have a Super Bowl ring, and God it's pretty, but guess what it represents? It represents all the tough times all the hard times and all the good times and all the people," he said.

Coach Rivera believes this team is full of athletes on the field, and really interesting guys off the field. He said it's not about one star or one big name, it's about a locker room full of people who act as one team.

Rivera made history in his 1985 Super Bowl debut, when he became the first Puerto Rican to play in a Super Bowl. Now, he's making it again, becoming the first Hispanic head coach to go to the Super Bowl.

Stephanie jokingly calls Rivera a "mutt," since his dad is Puerto Rican, his mom is Mexican-Indian and his grandfather was Filipino. She said it was important to give a shout out to all ethnicities with his multicultural background.

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