Why Sam Mills Inspires Me To Name My Fantasy Division After Him

I am so proud to be a part of the C3 Fantasy Football Challenge.  Not only is this going to be  an incredible amount of fun, but I'm also proud to point out that a portion of the entry fees are going to help fight cancer.  We've all been touched by the disease in some form or fashion.  We are also giving away Panther Prizes including a Benjamin Jersey, a DeAngelo Williams signed mini-helmet (already awarded to Jason Saulter!) and weekly panther prizes to the high-scorer in this four division 48-team Fantasy Football Battle Royale.  It is going to be a blast talking smack with fellow Panther Fans throughout the season.
Now four of us here at C3 have been tasked with naming the divisions in the league and we are naming them after former Panther players (not still in the NFL) and explaining why we picked them.  Well I got to choose first and the name of my 12-team division is named after the legendary Sam Mills.

Sam Mills holds a special place in my heart and there are so many reasons why. I’ll try to explain just a few:  Every short man (I'm 5'8 in shoes) that played sports growing up knows the odds are stacked against you especially when you run a 5.0 40.  Unlike me, Sam Mills was a standout High School Football Player and Wrestler in High School.  But because he was too short, his collegiate offers were limited.  And though he dominated at Montclair College and despite Scouts loving his tape, he was not drafted because he was 5’9.  He was even cut by the Browns after trying to make it as a Free Agent.  He wasn’t cut because of his skills, rather the GM was afraid his height would not stand up to the rigors of the NFL.

After getting his break and starring in the USFL, the NFL took notice.  And when his USFL Coach got a job with the New Orleans Saints, Mills finally got his break.  He earned four Pro Bowl appearances with the Saints during the late 80’s.  A Free Agent in 1995, Mills joined the expansion Panthers and I will never forget his interception against the Jets that gave the Panthers our first win as a Franchise.  Did you know he is the only player to start every Panther game in the first three years of our existence?  And after retiring he joined our coaching staff.

During our Super Bowl Season, the late-great Sam Mills was diagnosed with cancer.  His legendary speech to the team prior to the playoff game that year against Dallas (which we won 29-10) is where the now famous phrase “Keep Pounding” originated.

I've never had cancer but I did have a brain tumor at age 12 and was told that I had a 50/50 shot at surviving and that I would never walk again without extensive physical therapy.  I laughed at the odds, worked hard and beat those odds.  So did Sam Mills, so I can relate to him so much.

One other personal story about Sam that I'd like to share is that one winter day, he sat in my wife’s office at a BOA branch in Ballantyne and wept as he told her that the Panther players were paying his way to the upcoming Pro Bowl. The players did so because they were so motivated by him during their Super Bowl run while watching him run up and down the stadium steps (all while going through Cancer treatment).  My wife was so moved by this she was moved to tears herself and still talks about this fondly to this day.

The man never let obstacles stop him from pushing forward  and making it to the next level. Not his height and not his disease.   Now Sam is at the ultimate level and at home.  I look forward to seeing him again.  As a brain-tumor survivor, Sam is one of my inspirations.  How could I have possibly chosen any other player to represent my Division?  So for those of you lucky enough to be in the Sam Mills Division, Keep Pounding!

Erin Ford (aka Mel Mayock)