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Panthers punter Swayze Waters likes goats, will try not to be one

New Panthers punter Swayze Waters poses with Kevin the goat, the animal he wanted to make an official Toronto Argonauts mascot. Courtesy Swayze Waters

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- "Goat" is the last word with which anybody in sports wants to be associated -- unless, that is, you're new Carolina Panthers punter Swayze Waters.

Waters likes goats.

Big ones, little ones. Brown ones, white ones.

He likes them all.

According to Waters, 28, the goat "is the most underappreciated animal known to man."

The same thing could be said in the NFL about punters, which might have something to do with the connection Waters has with an animal whose name has a "baaaa-d" connotation in sports.

Confused?

Let's start at the beginning. The Panthers signed Waters on Feb. 11, four days after losing to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

At the time, the do-it-all kicker with the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts was considered insurance for Brad Nortman, Carolina's punter the past four seasons.

Waters emerged as the top option when Nortman recently signed a four-year, $8.8 million deal with Jacksonville in free agency.

Nortman was known for his funny messages on Twitter that were known as Nortmanisms. Waters doesn't have such a reputation, but he have one of his own.

That's where the goats come in.

Two years ago, Waters decided he was wasting his free time doing nothing and started planning afternoon excursions.

Because he loves coffee, one of his first trips was to a coffee roasting and packing company. Because he's an animal lover and one day hopes to have an "entrepreneurial experience" with them, he began searching for possibilities.

A friend mentioned there were goat dairy farms in the area, so Waters searched the Internet and found River's Edge Goat Dairy Farm, about an hour from Toronto.

That led to this email: "Hey, I play football for the Toronto Argonauts so I'm in Canada for five months. I'm from Mississippi and have an interest in dairy goats. I was wondering if I could stop by one day and see the farm, goats and how y'all do things? Let me know if and when would be a good time."

Katie Normet, who runs the farm with her life partner, Will Makxam, almost discarded the message. But after an Internet search of her own, she realized Waters was who he said he was.

She set up a day-long tour for Waters and Argonauts long snapper Jake Reinhart. They did everything a goat farmer would -- including milking.

"The staff, mostly female, loved seeing Waters struggle with the milking," Makxam said. "He and my daughter, Clara [Wilman], got into a milk-off. He just couldn't do it."

The trip led to what Waters called "a lot of goat interviews."

"It got blown up, so I decided to go with it," he said. "I had my fans mailing me stuff and saying, 'I love goats.' You wouldn't believe the stuff people were mailing."

The list included a pint of goat milk. Waters shared it with teammates in the locker room, telling them it would bring them good luck.

Waters became so enamored with a goat named Kevin that he tried to get the Argonauts to put it on the field as a mascot.

"The opposing team said, 'Forget it, no way,'" Makxam recalled. "Then he started looking at the rules for animals on the turf. It was kind of comical."

Returning to the NFL, where Waters spent time in the preseason with Detroit, Oakland and Pittsburgh from 2009-11 after attending the University of Alabama-Birmingham, likely will lead to more goat interviews.

Waters is ready.

"Whenever you get going with something, you just have to embrace it," he said.

Waters hopes the Panthers embrace him for his punting. After spending four seasons punting, kicking field goals and extra points, he'll finally get to specialize in one thing.

"That's what I'm excited about with this opportunity," Waters said.

Waters averaged 47.7 yards a punt in 2014, when he was named the CFL's special teams player of the year. He missed much of last season with a hip injury, but says that's no longer an issue.

"Punting is the most natural movement for me, so being able to focus on that will really help me out a lot," Waters said.

Waters and his wife, Kendal Carr, are living in their Jackson, Mississippi, home until it is time for him to begin training in Charlotte next month.

They just got back from a homeless outreach program in New York as a part of the Fellowship for Christian Athletes. Waters is an area rep for the FCA.

As for Waters' unusual first name, he wasn't named after the actor Patrick Swayze. It is his great-grandmother's maiden name.

But before the goats, that was the highlight of most interviews. It got to the point Waters simply joked that his mother was a Patrick Swayze fan.

You could almost hear the excursion wheels turning when Waters was told "Dirty Dancing," one of Swayze's biggest hit movies, was filmed less than two hours from Carolina's Bank of America Stadium.

As for goats, Waters doesn't have any in Jackson and he doesn't plan to be one with the Panthers.

"I don't know exactly what will happen," Waters said. "I'm just thankful I'm in a place where I have a real opportunity. There's not many of those in the NFL."

There aren't a lot of punters who love goats, either.