When Sam Mills joined the Carolina Panthers for their first season, he was already 36 years old. To old seemingly to have made such an impact on the franchise that he did.
The nine-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowler was the undisputed leader of the team, both on the field and in the locker room. His hard-nose play was legendary. Famed linebacker Lawrence Taylor once said of Mills, "Just once, I'd like to get a hit like he does. It has to be better than sex."
Mills intercepted a pass and returned it to pay dirt to seal the Panthers first win of the 1995 season. In 1996, he had 122 total tackles and 5.5 sacks to get his fifth Pro Bowl appearance.
After his final season in 1997, he stayed with the organization and was made the linebackers coach. He served in this capacity from 1998 through the 2004 season.
A checkup with his physician in 2003 could have shattered his world as he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Mills could have been brought to his knees with the diagnosis. Instead, he continued coaching while receiving chemotherapy treatments multiple times a week. The 2003 Carolina Panthers adopted his "Keep Pounding" motto, and made it all the way to Super Bowl...with Sam Mills still coaching on the sidelines.
Even though his outlook was dim, he continued coaching through the 2004 season, displaying the same toughness he did as a player. When originally receiving his diagnosis, he was given three to four months to live. Through the 2004 season, he had miraculously lived through 17 months of the cancer and treatment.
Sam Mills would ultimately succumb to his bout with cancer on April 18th, 2005. He is still the only player to be voted to the organization's "Hall of Honor". His son, Sam Mill III is still a coach with the team.