Coastal Carolina graduate Mike Tolbert was handpicked to play for the Panthers in 2011. After spending four years playing for the San Diego Chargers, Tolbert developed a special bond with Coach Ron Rivera — who happened to be the linebackers coach in San Diego at the time.
Rivera would go on to become the head coach for Carolina, and as fate would have it, Tolbert became a free agent. Soon after, the Panthers signed Tolbert as one of their newest running backs and fullbacks during the 2011-12 season.
“Coach Rivera has always been a big supporter of mine,” Tolbert told CharlotteFive. “He actually gave me the nickname ‘Short Round,’ which he says he got from a movie.”
In his five years with Carolina, Tolbert was named All-Pro twice, he played in two pro bowls, and was a part of the 2015 Super Bowl team.
In 2017, he went on to play for the Buffalo Bills for one season before making the decision to retire.
“I wanted to keep going mentally, but my body needed a break. My third child was also born around the time.”
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After his retirement, Tolbert took a full year to simply enjoy life — something he didn’t get the chance to do often while playing.
“I was finally able to take my kids to school and to their practices,” Tolbert said.
Soon, he found himself with a lot of free time and wanted to find a way to occupy it. As his grandmother always told him, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” He knew that he needed to find a business opportunity to invest in.
His best friend, Gerald, owns a trucking company and eventually persuaded him to get into it, as well.
“I now own two trucks, and I’m looking to get a third soon.”
In addition to his trucking business, Tolbert stays busy during the season with media appearances. He co-hosts The Coaches Huddle alongside Rivera each week, he is live on Panther’s radio during the pre-season and he does pre- and post-game hits on air during the season.
He works closely with the NFL Legends organization and does lots of speaking engagements around the community.
Outside of that, you can probably find him on the golf course three days out of the week.
While in the league, Tolbert and his wife, Shianette, aka Shia, bounced between Charlotte and San Diego. Shia Tolbert is from the San Diego area, and the couple’s two oldest children were born there, as well.
After about four or five years of convincing, Shia Tolbert finally agreed with him that the family belonged in Charlotte. Their children also agreed.
“I loved the West Coast. I met my wife there, we had kids there, but it just wasn’t me,” Tolbert explained.
The Tolberts officially made the Queen City their home earlier this year.
As a family, they spend lots of time together doing typical family activities — everything from trips to the movies to days at the park. They are also big on yearly traditions like going to the pumpkin patch each fall and getting tickets to the Nutcracker in the winter.
“We just really like hanging out as a family,” Tolbert said.
In addition to being big on family, Tolbert is also a big support of his friends’ community events. Whether it’s Greg Olsen, Jonathan Stewart, Steve Smith or even Josh Norman, Tolbert is always there to to lend a helping hand. “Support isn’t always financial. Sometimes it’s just being there,” he explained.