• Mario Vargas Llosa
  • Ron Rivera
  • Karl-Anthony Towns
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • Alfonzo Gonzales
  • Jose Miguel Sokoloff
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Adriano Espaillat

By ‘LLERO Editors

It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to football, the Super Bowl in particular. It’s exactly why Ron Rivera is on the list. You see, about this time in 2016, Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera did what only one other Latino in history has done – take a team to the NFL’s Super Bowl.

While it is one of the reasons we honor Rivera, it’s really the accumulation of a career’s worth of historic moments. Ronald Eugene Rivera, the son of a Puerto Rican father and Mexican-American mother, was born at Fort Ord, California and was an Army brat. And while locations would change for Rivera one thing would not, an ability to play the game. Rivera was granted a football scholarship to California, where he was an All-American linebacker, leading his team the Golden Bears in tackles for three years. In 1984 the NFL came calling and Rivera was drafted in the second round by the Chicago Bears, which according to ESPN made him the first player of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent to play in the NFL. Rivera would go on to be a part of that 1985 Chicago Super Bowl championship team, staying with Chicago through 1992.

After a short stint as a television analyst for college football, Rivera took on the challenge of coaching in the NFL. First came a successful tour of duty with the Philadelphia Eagles as linebacker coach, appearing in three consecutive NFC championship games. Then back home to Chicago, this time as a defensive coordinator until 2007, followed by a jaunt in San Diego with the Chargers. Then in 2011 he won the head coaching position for the Carolina Panthers. The honeymoon, however, was short, after three consecutive losing seasons, many believed his conservative coaching style was hindering the team’s ability to win close games and Rivera’s job was in danger. Yet, never one to give up, Rivera changed his approach, opting for a more aggressive style.

So much so, that many now deemed him to be taking too many risks. Earning him the moniker 'Riverboat Ron' akin to a riverboat gambler. Nicknames aside the change in style worked. In 2015 Rivera led the Panthers to the best season in franchise history, and one of the best regular seasons in NFL history finishing 15–1. The Panthers would breeze through the 2016 playoffs and earn themselves a spot in Super Bowl 50.
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Although they did not emerge victorious, its undeniable that if not for Riverboat Ron there would be no February football for Carolina in 2016. For doing it, and doing it his way Rivera is one of our Men of the Year in 2016.

Image Credits:
© Getty Images Sport/Wesley Hitt
© Getty Images Sport/Kevin C. Cox