BJ DRYE COLUMN: We’ll be cheering for Hill from Little Cincinnati

Who would have thought that deep in the heart of Panthers Nation, football fans would be cheering for the Cincinnati Bengals?

But that is what has happened.

In a season that saw Panthers fans get so excited at the return of Cam Newton and one that saw the retirement of Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady, the orange and black of the Bengals have become popular colors, especially around Stanly County and the town of Oakboro.

People went from cheering for one Queen City for the Queen City up north.

B.J. Hill is the reason. The West Stanly alum who turned into a member of the Wolfpack and was briefly a Giant is finishing his first season playing for the Bengals.

He has something big though before the season is over.

He will be the first player from Stanly County to be in the Super Bowl Sunday.

That is quite impressive.

Perhaps the fever thrust upon the county during Kellie Pickler’s run on “American Idol” is somewhat comparative. Yet this is different. Pickler’s momentum built every week, and there were voting parties in support of her.

For Hill and the Bengals, they have been under the radar. Now, with the nation watching, they have to face the Los Angeles Rams in the Rams’ stadium, the second year in a row that a team will play on its home turf. Tampa Bay successfully pulled that off last year.

There have been signs of support for Hill across the county, perhaps a little less than expected due to COVID.

He has made Stanly County proud no matter what the outcome of the big game is, but if the Bengals win, if he makes a game-changing play like his interception in the last game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the sky is the limit for Hill and Oakboro may turn into Little Cincinnati.