CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Eight new members joined pro football’s most exclusive club on Saturday.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2022 included six players, a head coach, and an official, but the one everyone in Panthers Nation was focused on was linebacker Sam Mills, who passed away from cancer in 2005.
Mills not only played for Carolina but was a linebacker coach for the Black and Blue after retiring. He coined the phrase, ‘Keep Pounding,’ which is the team’s mantra to this day.
The 5-foot-9 linebacker nicknamed “Field Mouse” during his 12-year career with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina, was inducted posthumously. An inspirational figure, Mills overcame tremendous odds to even reach the NFL.
Mills played Division III college football and was not drafted. He was cut by the Cleveland Browns and Toronto Argonauts of the CFL and began his professional career with the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars. Jim Mora, who coached the Stars, brought him to New Orleans in 1986 and Mills never looked back.
“He was told he wasn’t good enough to play college football or big enough to play professional football and at the age of 27, he wasn’t young enough to play in the NFL, and yet here we are today celebrating,” said Melanie Mills, Sam’s widow.
Mills became an assistant coach with the Panthers after his retirement. He was diagnosed with intestinal cancer before the 2003 season but kept coaching during his treatment and made what is known as his “Keep pounding” speech on the eve of the club’s Super Bowl matchup with New England at the end of that season.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.