Tolbert, Panthers make impression in Pro Bowl

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Several Carolina Panthers made an impression in Sunday night's Pro Bowl.

And none made a bigger one than fullback Mike Tolbert, one of the least known of his six teammates who participated in the annual all-star game in Hawaii.

In case you missed it, Tolbert barreled over the right side for a 2-point conversion with 41 seconds remaining to give the team coached by Ron Rivera and the Carolina staff a 22-21 victory.

He then playfully mocked Cam Newton, a member of the opposing team, with the "Superman'' celebration the Carolina quarterback does after scoring touchdowns.

"I told Cam I was going to mess with him if I got in the end zone, so I had to," Tolbert told Panthers.com.

Among those that couldn't stop Tolbert, known as the human bowling ball to his teammates because of his 5-foot-9, 245-pound frame, was linebacker Luke Kuechly.

Kuechly, who led the opposing team with 12 tackles, also went backwards in an earlier collision with Tolbert on a short first-down run.

"We kind of came to an agreement before the game that he would take a side and we would go peacefully in the night,'' Tolbert told the team's official website. "But he squared up on me, so I was like, 'OK, let's go,'

"He told me later his shoulder was hurt. I said, 'Please don't tell Coach.' ''

Kuechly is fine.

And nobody has to tell Rivera that Tolbert is one of the toughest players on a squad that finished the regular-season 12-4 and won the NFC South. He may be one of the least known of a backfield that includes DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but when it comes time for a tough yard he's the go-to guy.

So when Rivera's team scored to pull within one on Sunday, there was little hesitation. It was fitting that the coach who earned the nickname "Riverboat Ron'' this season for his willingness to gamble gave the ball to one of his own.

“I’m not surprised by any means that Ron wasn’t going to go for the tie,'' Tolbert told the Charlotte Observer after the game. "They call him Riverboat Ron in Carolina for a reason.”

And they call Tolbert a human bowling ball for a reason, too.

Other notables for the Panthers:

Newton: It was a better Pro Bowl experience than he had after the 2011 season when he threw three interceptions in a losing effort. He completed 8 of 17 pass attempts for 95 yards and had a 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak.

On a down note, he was sacked four times in the second quarter and threw an interception. Rivera couldn't be happy with that.

Kuechly: The middle linebacker once against proved why he is known as a tackling machine with 12. He also had a sack. Had his team won he surely would have been the most valuable player.

Greg Hardy: Carolina's sack leader with 15 had a sack in his first Pro Bowl experience. Next up for the defensive end is whether he will get the franchise tag from the Panthers, a long-term deal or enter free agency.