Although #51 will be retired, there has never been a #51 other than Sam Mills. Long since retired as a player, the Panthers' equipment manager Jackie Miles has never issued #51 to any player.
"Nobody has worn Sam's jersey for awhile anyway," said Panthers Head Coach John Fox. "I think it's just a tribute to show how we feel about Sam Mills."
Mills helped inspire the Panthers all the way to the super bowl in 2003. Mills, along with linebacker Mark Fields both were diagnosed with cancer during training camp in 2003, and were the inspiration behind the "Keep Pounding" campaign, a campaign to raise money for cancer research.
"He was an extraordinary man who is the model for all those who follow him with the Panthers," Panthers team president Mark Richardson said of Mills. "Sam will always have a special place in the history of the Panthers."
"He's somebody that is a part of all of us, everybody that was here with him from ownership on down to his teammates," Coach Fox said on Sunday afternoon. "He still has a presence here. He is not here physically but spiritually he is. It is not like he is gone for most everybody that had a close relationship with him."
Mills touched many people throughout his career. Retiring his number, along with the statue of him in his uniform outside the North gate of the stadium will ensure the generations of Panthers fans will come to know the legacy of Sam Mills.
"He's a guy that you want to model yourself after," Fox Said. "He was a guy that lived his life right on and off the field and a guy that I have the utmost respect for. I think he touched a lot of people in a lot of different ways, not only on our football team and in our organization but in Charlotte."
Panthers to retire #51
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