Lee Brice, the country star behind radio hits like “Love Like Crazy” and “I Don’t Dance,” is coming into the Super Bowl with his rooting interests all figured out: The 36-year-old South Carolina native has been a Panther fan since their very first season back in 1995.
His love of the game, though, runs even deeper than just his hometown allegiances. Brice was a long-snapper for the now-no. 2-ranked Clemson University Tigers, and even briefly considered going pro. An elbow injury may have ended his career on the field (and led him to pursue music), but Brice is as passionate a fan as ever. Read on for his Super Bowl 50 picks and predictions, and his favorite Super Bowl snack (you might want to grab the Tums for this one).
Who’s your pick for Super Bowl 50: Denver Broncos, or Carolina Panthers?
It’s so crazy in the pros — every athlete on every professional team is a superhuman athlete. What makes the differences in games are milliseconds, and fractions of inches. You could lose one game, you could lose five games, all by a millisecond! There’s such a fine line whenever you get to that level of athleticism. It really comes down to the teamwork.
The Super Bowl — you’ve got these Panthers, who are just rolling over people. I mean, they rolled over a great team on Sunday. One play, and they could be undefeated right now [Newton’s fumble on a would-be game-winning drive in Week 16 cost the Panthers their only loss this season], on their way to do what the 1972 Miami Dolphins did [the only team ever to win a Super Bowl after going undefeated in the regular season]. Where they’re at — I couldn’t believe they rolled over the Cardinals [in the NFC Championship] like they did, because Arizona’s so good.
Obviously, though, Denver’s got the number one defense. The Broncos are definitely going to slow down Cam Newton, maybe more than any team this year. They’re going to keep him in the pocket more — I just don’t know if they’re going to be able to slow him down enough. On top of that, Carolina actually has a really great defense as well, and at times this year, they’ve been as good as anybody in the whole league. Unless Peyton [Manning, Broncos quarterback] puts on some real magic, which he is capable of doing (I mean this could be his last game, who knows), Carolina is just together so well right now and has so much talent that it feels like they’ll come out on top.
It’s going to be a close game. Maybe 28-21? I think there are going to be some turnovers, maybe a touchdown or two scored just off of those — that happens in big games. If I had to put money on it — although I do say that defense wins games — I think Cam’s going to pull it out.
Who do you think will be the game’s MVP?
If Denver wins, I bet it’s Peyton. No matter what, he’s going to have to have an MVP type of game to win. He can do that — he’s done it many times. On Carolina’s side, Greg Olsen is a person they’re going to go to a lot. Maybe he scores three or four touchdowns because he’s so dependable, and he blocks. He might score a bunch of touchdowns, and then I’d be a prediction king [laughs]. Denver’s going to slow down Cam, and he’s going to have to stay in the pocket and throw more — so Olsen may get even more touches than he already does.
Who did your favorite Super Bowl halftime show?
Prince. When he started playing the solo to “Purple Rain,” the sky opened up and it started pouring. It was like God said, “OK Prince, you are the man, and I’m going to show everybody that you are the man.”
A lot of times, especially on TV right now, they pre-track everything because there’s no way to get all those instruments plugged in. With people like Prince, though, you have to figure out how to make it so he’s playing that guitar.
Man, it’s weird. Prince is so like, tiny — I mean I’m a big, burly redneck dude — and he still comes across as just plain awesome. When you’re that confident, and that bad to the bone onstage — plus the fact that he’s doing a solo on one of the most famous songs ever, and it starts raining cats and dogs — it was crazy.
What are your Super Bowl traditions?
I’m always gone working, so for the Super Bowl, I like to be like everybody else in the world — home with my friends. Cook some wings on my grill and have some cold beers with my buddies, kids running around the house — it’s just the normal thing, that’s kind of my tradition. It doesn’t matter if I’m in South Carolina where I’m from, or up in Ohio where my wife’s from, or in Nashville where we live — that’s what I want to be doing.
What would you tell the Panthers to play before they take the field Sunday?
There’s a song from my first record called “Carolina Boys” [laughs] — it’s rockin’, it’s up-tempo, and says, “Carolina boys get rowdy loud.” That’s what they should listen to.
Cam’s on-field celebrations have gotten some negative attention from (mostly opposing) fans — what do you make of the dabbing and dancing?
I was just talking to one of my engineers about this. He’s on that team that just really dislikes Cam’s [on-field persona], For me, it’s like, there’s a line. I grew up pretty old school where you definitely, even if you knock somebody out, you don’t talk — you just keep going about your business. I was always a quiet player, I played with my pads and my helmet. Cam — I think he’s just an extra-happy person right now, because he’s finally coming into his own. When you used to watch him at Auburn, I really loved Cam then, because he was just this force — he had to win. He wasn’t a showboater then, it didn’t seem like. It seemed like he was a leader.
He’s still all those things now, but he also seems to be saying, “Well, life’s short, I’m going to do what I want.” If it were me, I would say, “Cam, you know, drop the ball and be as humble and as quiet as you can,” because that’s just the kind of player I am, and if I were a coach, I’d probably be the same way. But you can’t tell people what to do. Especially if they’re getting fines, and want to pay them. I’m not the biggest fan of that, but I still don’t think he’s doing it for show, or that he’s not a leader. There’s a lot of people who do that kind of stuff because they’re a solo player. I know that Cam is such a team kind of guy, which makes it not quite so bad for me.
The man on the team and on the field he is — it’s not like he’s showboating around, asking for all the money, and not caring what the coaches or other players say. He is a team player, and that is what really matters to me. Long story short, I know that he is a fighter and a team player. The dancing and stuff, I don’t really pay attention to that. I’m looking at the scoreboard.
What’s your first Super Bowl memory?
Being home in South Carolina on the little dirt road that we grew up on. Me and my brother and my cousins, we all lived on one road. When you’re really young, you don’t necessarily sit there and watch a whole football game — you get bored. But I do remember Super Bowls, back when I was six and seven, where I’d watch with my daddy for a while and then we’d go outside. We’d play — we’d mimic the big plays that happened. That’s the stuff that I remember — through the era of the Bills and the Broncos winning all those Super Bowls was always crazy. That time when Leon Lett, he was a defensive lineman and he got all the way to the endzone and started celebrating and he dropped the ball. In the Super Bowl! I saw that play, just like, “That was so stupid!”
Any go-to snacks?
There’s a queso that I make — it’s my thing. It’s terrible for you, but I love it — it’s my Big Country Country Hamburger Jalapeño Cheese Dip. It’s got hamburger meat, a couple blocks of Velveeta cheese, all in a Crock-Pot — a bunch of jalapenos thrown in there…and personally, I like to serve it with Doritos, and not regular chips. I will just eat bowls of that all day long.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Feb. 13 issue of Billboard.