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Thom Tillis Pays Bet, Praises Broncos on Floor

Tillis' Panthers lost in the Super Bowl on Sunday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Tillis' Panthers lost in the Super Bowl on Sunday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner presiding over the Senate, North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom Tillis paid off their Super Bowl bet.  

Wearing a Denver Broncos orange tie, Tillis, the bet’s mastermind , paid his respects on the Senate floor on Thursday to the Super Bowl champs. “You and I, Mr. President, attended the Super Bowl on Sunday, and I’m sure you agree, it was quite a treat,” Tillis said. He commended the Super Bowl organizers in Santa Clara, Calif., for “making us feel welcome.” “I think it’s safe to say that there are thousands in Colorado on a ‘Rocky Mountain High’ this week, and I bet there’s even more that are really happy that the Broncos won the Super Bowl,” he said.  

On Sunday, the Broncos beat the Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50.  

“I want to thank you, Mr. President, for not accepting some of my maybe more exuberant, or over-exuberant, offers that I made as a possible friendly wager. And for C-SPAN viewers at home, you may want to avert your eyes. I really don’t think I would have looked very good in an orange beard with Broncos earrings,” he said.  

He unveiled a poster of this image, next to one of Gardner with a Panther’s blue beard. “You look a lot like Papa Smurf with a blue beard,” Tillis said to Gardner. He said he is usually rooting for the Broncos if they aren’t playing the Panthers or the Miami Dolphins.  

Tillis then put up a poster of quarterback Peyton Manning. “Peyton is an amazing athlete but what really makes Peyton extraordinary is his character and his behavior on and off the field,” he said.  

Another poster went up, this time of the Carolina Panthers. In closing, Tillis thanked the Panthers’ coach Ron Rivera, quarterback Cam Newton and the 10 pro-bowlers from the team this year.  

He said he grew a playoff beard, which he had on Super Bowl night. “On Monday morning, I got misty-eyed as I shaved it off in San Francisco,” he said. Tillis revealed the poem he wrote, based on the Tony Bennett song, entitled, “I Left My Hair in San Francisco.”  

“I left my hair in San Francisco after the game had haunted me.
I’m cleanly shaven, quite sad and bare, while Broncos fans stand like Fred Astaire.
The loveliness of Santa Clara seems somehow sad today,
The glory of my Panther’s season is of another day.
But I’m looking forward to next year’s season because I expect a Super Bowl repeat for many good reasons.”  

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., responded that he will eventually make more Broncos remarks, but for himself and Gardner, he is grateful to Tillis. “I know how hard it must have been,” he said. “To have you not only make the remarks, but provide original poetry at the end is more than anybody could have expected.”  

Bennet congratulated Broncos linebacker and Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and the team’s defense. The senator then thanked Manning for “the example he has set for my children and for children all over our state, that what matters is not how good you are, or how skilled you are, or how you act in the minute. What matters is the patient decades of hard work a person is willing to put in to perfect their craft.”  

Gardner left the president’s chair to speak on the floor. “I’m really glad that Senator Bennet and I didn’t have to grow a beard,” Gardner said.  

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also made a humbling floor speech to pay off a bet to Tillis after the Panthers beat the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship game.  

Contact Gangitano at and follow her on Twitter @AlexGangitano .

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