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NORTH CAROLINA'S NATIONAL RANK
No. 17 pro | No. 21 college | No. 14 high school
The Panthers first took the field in 1995 but already have an NFC championship and Super Bowl appearance. Team owner Jerry Richardson is only the second player to buy a franchise. Long before the Panthers existed, Giants pass-rush terror Lawrence Taylor was chasing quarterbacks for the Tar Heels, and longtime Oilers defensive end Elvin Bethea was playing at North Carolina A&T. One quarterback from the state who would not have been intimidated by either defender was Sonny Jurgensen, a Duke product who won his third NFL passing crown when he was 40. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs was born in Mocksville.
How do the Carolina Panthers stack up? At the onset of the 2006 NFL season, many prognosticators cast the class superlative of "most likely to succeed" upon the 2005 NFC runner-ups. Their up and down play since, however, is emblematic of the franchise's brief history. Read more from Mark
College football in the South started with Duke, which played the first college game south of the Mason-Dixon line. North Carolina has the record for most 1,000-yard rushers with 24 and has sent players like Julius Peppers to the NFL. NC State wasn't the only team to wear pink uniforms in the early years (Nebraska comes to mind, too). East Carolina has been ranked as high as No. 9 in 1991 led by quarterback Jeff Blake.
In a state that gets more attention for college hoops than the prep gridiron, there is Independence High School in Charlotte, one of the most successful national programs. Spring 2006 DI signees: 56. Fall 2006 high school football teams: 351.
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