Ron Rivera takes pride in heritage

As part of our coverage of National Hispanic Heritage Month, I did a question-and-answer session with Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera.

You can see the full interview here. But, if you want the quick version, Rivera has been a pioneer.

He became the first person of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage to play in the NFL when he joined the Chicago Bears as a linebacker in the 1980s. He became only the third NFL head coach of Latino descent when he was hired by the Panthers in 2011.

Going back to his playing days, Rivera has been active in working with Hispanic groups and helped at a youth football camp in Puerto Rico. Rivera said he’s happy to see more Hispanic players coming into the NFL and is proud that he might have played a role in getting them involved in football.

“I'd like to think so,’’ Rivera said. “I've had some Hispanic kids come up and say I was their role model and that's very gratifying. He wasn't a football player, but my idol growing up was Roberto Clemente. The man died trying to help out earthquake victims in Nicaragua and that left a huge impression on me. I've always felt it's very important to try to give back to the community.’’