It started with a draft pick on a podium in New York and ended on a dais in Charlotte. Jordan Gross has retired
Gross' voice wavered and he fought back tears on first sentence. The now-retired offensive tackle said he was surprised emotion hit him so quickly and he couldn't keep it together. He attempted to insert humor saying "these always feel like funerals," but said he made this choice on his own and that the Panthers wanted to bring him back. Gross added he believes the team is in a good position and will be good for a long time.
The press conference was just as classy as you'd expect. Gross spent time thanking the lesser-known members of the organization -- film staff, strength coaches, security guards. Everyone had their time. The offensive tackle said he didn't like Dave Gettleman last Summer (presumably due to his contract restructure) but said he's doing a fine job.
Charlotte has meant a lot to a man who "hadn't traveled past the Mississippi" before being drafted. He thanked the city for their support and of course made a great power point presentation that helped him fight back the tears. Making jokes over past photos helped Gross and surprisingly took time to thank Julius Peppers, who he said "meant the world to him" as a teammate and competitor.
Gross began to tear up again when he showed a photo of him and Steve Smith. A 13-year teammate who helped him understand the league.
Winning the NFC South in 2013 was Gross' proudest moment with the organization. A photo of him, the offensive line and Cam Newton gave him a chance to discuss how Cam is the future and that his journey in the NFL game full-circle with a return to the playoffs.
One final bout of tears came when Gross showed a photo of him, Ryan Kalil, Travelle Wharton and Geoff Hangartner. They were his teammates, his friends. Speaking about each individually he talked about what they meant to him, adding that Kalil said he needed to get a job with the organization so he could pretend he was on IR.
Finally, the fans. Gross thanked all of us for cheering him, supporting him and wanting him to stay. Gross said it was his time and that there were nothing but fond memories of his time with the Carolina Panthers.
There was a post-script, there always is. During question time several members of the organization and Kalil stood to stand and sing a barbershop quartet rendition of "Happy Trails" to Gross, including a final line that was joke as much as reality "You'll be missed on third and 10."
Gross will be missed, by all of us. Thank you for an amazing career.
UPDATE: The Charlotte Observer released video of the Barbershop quartet -- and it was awesome.