04-18-2005, 03:30 PM
5000 POSTS! +
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: San Antonio, TX
RIP SAM MILLS!!!!!!!!!!
Former star linebacker had intestinal cancerESPN.com news services
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sam Mills, an undersized linebacker who became a Pro Bowl player with New Orleans and Carolina and was later an assistant coach for the Panthers, died Monday after fighting cancer for nearly two years, the Panthers said. He was 45.
Mills, who was diagnosed with cancer of the small intestine in August 2003 but continued to coach Carolina's linebackers between chemotherapy treatments, died at his home.
"Sam was one of the finest people you will ever meet. You would never know that he was a player who made Pro Bowls and had all this attention because he treated everybody the same no matter who they were," Carolina general manager Marty Hurney said. "He never had a bad thing to say about anybody and had a great ability to laugh at himself.
"He was the type of guy you want your kids to grow up to be."
A five-time Pro Bowl selection, Mills spent the final three seasons of his 12-year NFL career with the Panthers, beginning with their inaugural season in 1995.
There is a statue of him outside Bank of America Stadium and he is the only player in the team's Hall of Honor. Mike McCormack, Carolina's first team president, is the only other inductee in the Hall.
Mills spent his first nine NFL seasons with the New Orleans Saints, following three seasons in the United States Football League. He finished his career with 1,319 tackles while starting 173 of 181 games.
He joined the Panthers' coaching staff upon his retirement.
Mills was an undersized linebacker out of Montclair (N.J.) State who tried -- and failed several times -- to catch on with NFL and Canadian Football League teams. He gave professional football one last shot when the USFL debuted in 1983, and a tryout with the Philadelphia Stars led to a roster spot.
"The USFL came at a perfect time for me," Mills, a three-time All-USFL selection who helped the Stars win league titles in 1983 and '84, said in an interview in March. "It was the most fun I ever had playing football."
Every day, Stars coach Jim Mora asked his assistants who the best player on the field was. Every day, they told him "Sam Mills."
"I don't need a 5-9 linebacker," Mora kept saying.
Mills ended up as one of Mora's favorite players and when Mora went to the Saints after the USFL's demise, he brought Mills with him.
Born in Neptune, N.J., Mills is survived by his wife Melanie, sons Sam III and Marcus, and daughters Larissa and Sierra.
Some of my earliest memories of Saints football include Sam Mills. I wish he would have stayed with the black and gold in some capacity his whole career. Godspeed Sam.