First off I must apologize for missing Day 20 of the Advent Calendar. My plan was to analyze what current #20 Kurt Coleman did throughout the game, hoping he continued his INT hot streak, and submit my piece on him. The game didn't go exactly to plan though and I needed a beer and a lie down after my near fatal heart attack. However with the benefit of hindsight, the 20 should probably represent the number of punches thrown by Big Baby Beckham. I wouldn't want to inflate his already hyper extended ego by giving him the time of day for being a violent thug who should have been ejected well before he was given the opportunity to tie the game up and make us all sweat.
So instead I'm going to skip straight to #21 and take us all the way back to our origins. For any of you that have been fans of the Panthers right from their inception and inaugural season in 1995, I ask you this question: Who's jersey was the first you bought? Hands up if your answer is today's feature..
The owner of, probably the greatest and definitely the most difficult name to pronounce, in franchise history, Tshimanga Biakabutuka was born in the same city, Kinshasa (then Zaire, now Democratic Republic of the Congo) and in the same year (1974) as one of the greatest fights in history. Born in January, Tim would have been a mere 10 months old when Muhammad Ali took on the undefeated world champion George Foreman in what is now called the 'Rumble in the Jungle'.
He didn't stay long though, he and his family emigrated to Canada, where during high school, he earned the nickname Touchdown Tim playing Canadian ball and played his way to a scholarship with the University of Michigan. There he played back up for two seasons to future NFL pro Tyrone Wheatley. In 1995 he became the starter and broke the single season yardage record with 1,818, including a whopping 313 yards in one game versus the undefeated Ohio State.
The Panthers, looking to improve on their 7-9 from the 1995 record, chose Biakabutuka with the 8th overall pick in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft. Like Kerry Collins the previous year, huge things were expected of and hoped for from Biakabutuka, but like Collins he failed to live up to full potential. Unlike Collins however, it was not for behavioral issues, but injuries which blighted his career, particularly his opening few seasons. He never played more than 12 games in a single season throughout his time in the NFL, and just 12 over both his first two seasons, racking up just 528 yards and two touchdowns.
After his early injury woes, he did begin to get stronger later on in his career, in 1999 he took over as the teams primary starter at running back, starting all 11 of the games he featured in. This turned out to be his best season as a Panther, tallying 718 yards and six touchdowns. He is perhaps most fondly remembered for being the only man in Carolina history to rush for two 60+ yard touchdowns in the same game.
He finished his NFL career in 2001 having appeared in 51 games, starting 35, and totalling 2,530 rushing yards, 789 receiving yards and scoring 17 total touchdowns. He currently sits fifth on the Panthers All-Time Rushing leaders table. Having been surpassed by Cam Newton late last season, he also trails DeShaun Foster (who Cam is only 200 yards behind now) in third, J-Stew in second, and, of course, DeAngelo Williams way out in first with a cushion of around 1000 yards.
It's a shame we never saw Tim reach his full potential, but regardless, he left his mark on this team and will go down as one of the top five running backs ever for the Carolina Panthers.
By Dan Rawlinson