No team in the NFL plays in a state with as many HBCU football programs as the Carolina Panthers. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always translated into representation on the Charlotte-based team.
Former North Carolina A&T and North Carolina Central offensive lineman Ricky Lee has taken one step closer to making that move. Lee impressed the Panthers enough in rookie minicamp to earn a contract with the franchise after getting an invite following the 2023 NFL Draft.
“A lot of guys don’t get this opportunity,” Lee told the Charlotte Post. “My dream finally came true. I’m blessed to be here. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Being part of the top one percent is a blessing. I can’t really describe … I’m speechless.”
Standing at 6’6 and weighing 320 pounds, the Carolina Panthers signed Lee to a three-year deal worth $2.7 million, according to Over The Cap, a website that details NFL player contracts. The first year of the deal is worth $751k, with that number going up to $916k in 2024 and $1.03 million in 2025.
None of that money is guaranteed, however. As an undrafted free agent, he’ll have to make the team to make those figures. But Lee is well aware and unafraid despite his uphill climb.
“Any opportunity to stay in this league as long as possible,” Lee said. “Making that 53-man is definitely the main goal. I would be blessed.
“Not a lot of guys get this opportunity, but I’m not satisfied.”
The most recent player from an HBCU to play for the Carolina Panthers was Daryl Johnson, a defensive end from North Carolina A&T.