Carolina Panthers' wives open up about life on the team

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - They say behind every man is a strong woman and as the Carolina Panthers prepare for the Super Bowl, their wives are talking about the truth behind that statement.

The Panthers have worked hard all season and earned a bid to Super Bowl 50 after defeating the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship game.

But what about their wives? How do they tackle being an NFL wife?

"You know the reality shows that are out there make it seem like football wives shop all day; they get together they eat," said Shia Tolbert, wife of Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert. "I'm sure that's true for some, to each her own."

For Tolbert, Jordan Mayo and Heather Harper, being a NFL wife isn't as glamorous as people like to think it is. The trio sat down with WBTV's Brigida Mack for a look inside the lives of NFL wives.

"We still have to watch our kids," Harper said, "We still have to cook dinner."

"We do the same things that everyone else does," Mayo chimed in. "We're privileged in what our husbands do and we have some perks from that but we have pretty normal lives."

Shia Tolbert says she does the same thing as any other other wife and mother.

In fact, Shia met Tolbert his rookie year with the San Diego Chargers and says she never wanted to be a football wife.

"I never in a million years thought because I just didn't want to be involved with a professional athlete," she admitted.

But God, she says, had other plans.

"He turned out to be different and then two kids later, five years, marriage later.. I guessed it worked out," she chuckled.

Heather Harper met her husband, safety Roman Harper, in high school.

A stay-at-home mom, Heather admits to struggling with not having a job outside the home early on.

"I think sometimes it's hard to find your own identity because you get caught up in I'm 'whoever's wife," she said.

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But the mom of two, with a third on the way, has realized over the years just how much she contributes to the Harper household.

"You're basically the bookkeeper and you're basically the maid, the nanny," Harpert said. "And you're all of those things and you don't realize it because you get caught up in what I'm not contributing in other ways."

That contribution, she says, helps balance their home life and with a demanding NFL life.

"Leaving work at work and home and home," she said. "The girls are like 'Daddy, Daddy' so he's able to leave work at work because you have this whole other love that you find."

That 'whole other love' is one Shia says is thrilling to watch her husband experience.

"To them it's just - that's just Daddy," Tolbert said. "If we're at home and they're watching him on TV and they see his number and they scream because they're excited. He's daddy jungle gym when he gets home. They're all over him. It's super fun."

But Harper and Tolbert know that their days as football wives are limited.

"We have a joke that the NFL means 'not for long'," Tolbert said. "So it's just one of those things we're gonna have to just see where this life takes us. We're so blessed, first of all, to even be in this position. And I"m excited for what post-football life will be like."

"When that time comes, the roles will reverse and he'll be stay at home daddy," she believes. "I can go ahead and figure out what I want to do as well with my degree."

Harper agrees, saying she'll miss it, but also looks forward to that day.

"I'm really working on living in the moment, but also I'm excited to see what's next for us," Harper said. "Where will we live? How will we settle down?"

"While they're playing - you don't know," she said about life. "Next year, they could be on this team or that team. It's kinda hard for you to settle down in your career."

Jordan Mayo met rookie linebacker David Mayo in high school. Last year, the pair got engaged, married and moved to Charlotte in a matter of months. But she already has the basics down.

"I take care of everything at home, everything outside of football, so all he has to focus on is football."

Sitting down with the more experienced wivess, she admitted that she is still taking mental notes of this conversation.

"I think I'm kind of listening to all of it and letting it sink in," she said.

The learning curve this year has been steep, but Mayo says nothing could prepare her for the Panthers' historic season with a Super Bowl berth just days away.

"I don't think we've really wrapped our heads around it yet," Mayo said. "This is everything he's ever dreamed of since he was a little kid and to be able to do this he's very first year - it's so special."

"It's surreal," adds Tolbert. "It's an amazing feeling."

Roman Harper won the Super Bowl in 2009 with the New Orleans Saints, but his wife says it doesn't lessen his excitement with the Panthers.

"I think it never gets old and it's just get more and more exciting every time," Harper said.

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