Derrick Mahone/Douglas County Sentinel Secelia Tolbert flashes a smile during a recent Douglas County High basketball game. She is the mother of Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert.

Secelia Tolbert never complained as she had to work three jobs to keep her family feed.

And the sacrifices she made to ensure that son Mike Tolbert could play football including going a month eating nothing but Ramen Noodle Soup.

The single mother of two was once asked by a family member is it worth the struggle to let her only son compete in football.

After the Carolina Panthers secured a spot in today’s Super Bowl last month, Secelia called that relative to let her know it was definitely worth it.

The elder Tolbert flew out to Santa Clara, Calif., on Tuesday to watch live as her son will make history this evening at Levi’s Stadium.

Mike Tolbert is the 245-pound Pro Bowl fullback for the Carolina Panthers. He is the first player from the county to play in a Super Bowl.

“I’m definitely excited about this Super Bowl,” Secelia said. “Mike told me growing up that he was going to play in the NFL one day.”

And Secelia did her part to see that he had every opportunity. Worked three jobs. Instilled discipline in him.

But mostly gave him the love and support that he needed.

And the way she raised Mike didn’t go unnoticed by the coaches that worked with Mike at Douglas County High.

“What Mike has done is a tribute to the way his mother raised him,” said Mike’s former Douglas County coach Phil Williams. “He learned a lot about sacrifice.”

He certainly did.

As Secelia would do her early morning paper route, Mike would be sleep on the floor in the back seat.

Despite his NFL fame, the Tolberts still remain humble.

Before leaving for the Super Bowl, Secelia attended Senior Night at Douglas County High. She patience greeted well-wisher, danced and talked with everyone that came up to her.

Mike was the same way when he came home for a game during the Panthers’ bye week.

He even spoke to the team before the game and it seemed to be a motivation as they won.

Mike donated money to help the Tigers renovate their locker room, which is named after the Tolbert family.

“Mike and his family are the most down-to-earth people I know,” Douglas County athletic director Albert Lindsey said. “We have a VIP room set up for them to watch the game but they wanted to sit in the stands with the rest of the fans. He is such an inspiration for all our kids at Douglas County.”

And Secelia will be the first to tell you it was because of the Douglas County community that Mike is now a professional She thanks his numerous coaches that have played a big part in fulfilling the void left by having his father around.

Mike has his college degree, something that his mother is really proud of.

“We had a lot of coaches that I could depend on to help me,” said Secelia, who still drives a school bus for the county. “It was the help of those coaches from little league through high school that has been a big part of our life. I’m just really thankful.”

And the community is proud of its native son.

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