Next on my ranking of the top five draft picks in the history of the Carolina Panthers is a player that lived up to draft day expectations and more.
Meet No. 3:
Left tackle Jordan Gross, 1st round, No. 8 overall, 2003 out of Utah -- There aren't enough adjectives to describe what Gross meant to the team as a player and a leader. The void he left in both categories when he announced his retirement during the offseason will be the toughest to overcome in Carolina's quest to record consecutive winning seasons for the first time in team history.
Gross was an impact player from the get-go. He started every game at right tackle as a rookie and did not miss an offensive play. He allowed only three sacks for a team that ended its season with a 32-29 loss to New England in the Super Bowl.
Gross moved to left tackle in 2004, where he played most of his 11 NFL seasons. He was given the franchise tag in 2008, and a year later was voted to the Pro Bowl for the first of his three appearances.
But bigger than what Gross did on the field was what he did in the locker room. Many credit his "Highlanders" speech after a 1-3 start as the catalyst for an eight-game winning streak and a 12-4 record this past season.
Center Ryan Kalil summed Gross up best.
"Jordan is one of those guys who has a relationship with almost everybody on the team," Kalil said. "It's important for him to know his teammates. He doesn't just stay in his little bubble.
"Because of that, he has a good pulse on what the personality of the team is like. That's important, because when you have a guy who is a true leader, who understands everybody and then gets up to speak or make a point about something, he's somebody you care to hear what he has to say.''
Next up, No. 2. Can you guess who that is?