Panthers retire Mills' jersey at halftime
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers honored the late Sam Mills at halftime of their preseason game Saturday night by retiring his jersey.
Mills, who played three seasons with the Panthers and was an assistant coach in the organization for seven more, died in April after a nearly two-year battle with cancer.
"Since his retirement, no other Carolina Panther has ever worn No. 51," Carolina owner Jerry Richardson said. "We are proud to say as of tonight no Panther player will ever wear this number again."
Mills, a five-time Pro Bowl linebacker, is the only player in Carolina's Hall of Honor. There is also a bronze statue of him outside of their stadium that was erected following his retirement.
Sam Mills III, an assistant with the Panthers, accepted the framed No. 51 jersey on behalf of his family.
"My father was proud to be a Panther and I am happy to know that all of you guys supported him all the years he was here," his son said. "This is a wonderful way to close a very important chapter in his life."
A video of Mills' highlights was shown to the crowd, as well as a clip from a speech linebacker Mark Fields made at the ESPY awards earlier this year. Fields is also battling cancer and will sit out this season while undergoing treatment.
"One thing Sam Mills used to say before he passed away was you've got to `Keep pounding, keep pounding, keep pounding,' " Fields said.
Keep Pounding was the expression Mills and Fields used to rally Carolina during the 2003 season while they both sat out with cancer. The Panthers went to the Super Bowl that season and credited Mills and Fields for inspiring them.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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