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JOESAM2002 08-09-2005 09:01 AM

Mills' No.51 to be hung on wall of Fame...
Mills' No. 51 to be hung on Wall of Fame
Tribute scheduled for Sept. 18
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
By Nakia Hogan
Contributing writer
For nine years, as part of the famed "Dome Patrol," Sam Mills pulled on his black and gold No. 51 jersey and slammed his small frame into much larger bodies, often sending the sellout crowds at the Superdome into wild celebrations.

Now, nearly four months after Mills died of cancer, the Superdome is paying him back by lifting his No. 51 into the rafters.

Mills, a five-time Pro Bowl performer, will be enshrined in the Superdome Wall of Fame during a pregame ceremony before the Saints' regular season home opener against the New York Giants on Sept. 18, according to Bill Curl, the Superdome's director of public relations.

Mills -- who'll join Superdome founder Dave Dixon, former Saints quarterback Archie Manning, former teammate Rickey Jackson, former Saints general manager Jim Finks, legendary Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson and ex-LSU and Jazz standout Pete Maravich -- was selected by a five-person panel.

"It was a relatively easy decision," Curl said. "Sam certainly was qualified. He was a combination of ability and attitude. Sam was not only a great player, but a great person. He was a leader by example. The younger players looked up to him, and he was recognized by all of his peers."

At 5 feet 9 and 229 pounds, Mills managed to inspire two generations of players with his gritty, yet classy, play at inside linebacker.

But it wasn't easy.

Because of his size, Mills didn't attract large colleges coming out of high school and ended up at Montclair (N.J.) State. He was cut by the Cleveland Browns in 1981 and the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts the next year, before joining the fledgling Unites States Football Leauge in 1983.

He played three seasons with the Philadelphia Stars, making all-USFL each season, while helping the team win two championships.

Mills didn't become a household name until he joined the Saints in 1986.

In New Orleans, he teamed with Jackson, Vaughan Johnson and Pat Swilling, forming the "Dome Patrol," a feared group of linebackers who terrorized NFL offenses. Mills helped lead the Saints to the playoffs four times in six seasons.

During Mills' nine seasons in New Orleans, he earned four trips to the Pro Bowl, and in 1998 was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame.

He played his final three seasons with the Carolina Panthers, earning another trip to the Pro Bowl. He finished his career with 1,319 tackles, 20 ½ sacks, 11 interceptions and four touchdowns, while starting 173 of 181 games.

This is just the latest honor for Mills, who died in April after being diagnosed with intestinal cancer in August 2003. There already is a statue of him outside Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

"It's always a great honor to receive any award, especially in this situation," Mills' son, Marcus, said. "You can't receive enough praise for a situation like that and for what's he's done. It's always good when other people notice the good things that my father did."

WhoDat 08-09-2005 09:47 AM

RE: Mills
Glad that "second rate" NFL stadium has the sense to do something to honor a Saints great. Maybe Tom could learn a thing or two by looking at how "the worst stadium" in football does things.

Glad to finally see this. Thanks Joe.

maximkat 08-09-2005 10:13 AM

RE: Mills
Quality person, though we should have seen this article much earlier - I'm glad this is done.

Tobias-Reiper 08-10-2005 05:23 PM

RE: Mills
Good.. someone with common sense...

spkb25 08-10-2005 05:49 PM

RE: Mills
very very excellent

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