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Love Panthers' Newton, Olsen, Kuechly, Norman? Thank ex-GM Marty Hurney

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Marty Hurney has a great view of Bank of America Stadium through a giant window as he does his daily show from the broadcast booth at ESPN 730 radio.

The hot topic on today's show is the same as it has been the past four months: the Carolina Panthers.

Hurney loves talking about the Super Bowl-bound Panthers.

He just doesn't like talking about his role in building the team.

"I'll talk about Dave all you want," Hurney said of general manager Dave Gettleman. "The people in the building are the ones that deserve all the credit."

The blueprint for the Carolina team that will face Denver in Super Bowl 50 indeed is the work of Gettleman and head coach Ron Rivera.

But Hurney's fingerprints are all over it.

Ten of the 21 starters were brought to the organization by Hurney during his 10-plus years in Gettleman's seat from 2002-12. Among those are Carolina's biggest stars: quarterback Cam Newton, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, outside linebacker Thomas Davis, tight end Greg Olsen, cornerback Josh Norman and center Ryan Kalil.

Each of those players was selected to the Pro Bowl this season. Hurney selected Kalil in the second round and Norman in the fifth. Giving up a third-round pick for Olsen might have been the best trade in franchise history.

Hurney drafted defensive end Charles Johnson, the franchise's No. 2 all-time sacks leader with 62.5, in the third round.

He brought kicker Graham Gano, punter Brad Nortman and deep snapper J.J. Jansen to the organization as well.

He hired Rivera and most of the current staff.

"He set the foundation," wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl said. "He had a tremendous impact on where we are today.

"And you can't forget the head football coach, Ron Rivera. He believed in him through and through and believed he was the best man for the job. He never doubted Coach."

Gettleman repeatedly goes out of his way to share the credit for his success with Hurney. He did so while on Hurney's radio show a year ago during the Senior Bowl.

"Marty poked fun at himself with what he's done [with the salary cap]," Gettleman said. "I said, ‘Yeah, he's the same guy that also left us with Cam and Luke.'"

Hurney did leave Gettleman financially strapped with bad deals. The Panthers were more than $16 million over the cap when Gettleman took over in January 2013.

Hurney believed in rewarding players with big contracts in order to keep the core together. Among the biggest was a six-year, $76 million deal to Johnson that included $32 million guaranteed.

Gettleman ultimately reworked a lot of those contracts to put himself in position to bring in other players and lock Newton, Kuechly, Davis and Olsen into long-term deals.

Gettleman let go of the team's all-time leading receiver, Steve Smith, and all-time leading rusher, DeAngelo Williams. Both were drafted by Hurney.

Gettleman took Carolina to the top level with a lunch-pail philosophy focused on building from the inside out. He built the entire offensive line outside of Kalil and the defensive front outside of Johnson.

He strengthened the core. But Hurney built something else.

"He built a great foundation," former offensive tackle Jordan Gross, Carolina's first-round pick in 2003, said of Hurney. "Sometimes it takes somebody to look at things from a different angle, and Dave Gettleman did that."

Davis agreed.

"Dave Gettleman brought a bunch of different guys in that are key contributors to this team," he said. "But at the same time, Marty brought a bunch of us in as well. We'll forever be thankful for that."

Don't forget, Hurney also helped the Panthers reach a Super Bowl. Carolina might already have a Lombardi Trophy were it not for an out-of-bounds kickoff with just over a minute left that led to a last-second, game-winning field goal by New England in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

The Panthers appeared poised for another Super Bowl run in 2005. They made the NFC Championship Game before getting steamrolled at Seattle.

They looked good for another run in 2008 after a 12-4 regular season, but Arizona shocked them at home. That was the beginning of the end for quarterback Jake Delhomme, who had five interceptions in the game.

That also was the beginning of the end for Hurney, as the Panthers went four straight seasons without a winning record. Hurney didn't get to see out the fourth. He was fired after a 1-5 start.

Some will argue Hurney was the fall guy, that somebody had to go to avoid a second coaching change in less than two seasons.

"I called Marty in December of 2014 and said, 'Marty, let's get your name back out there as a general manager,'" Delhomme said. "He said, 'Are you kidding?' Marty never took any credit. He was like, 'No, Jake, I'm good.'

"But look at the guys Marty drafted. Who did Marty miss in the first round? Did he ever have a true miss?"

Not in the first round. In his final two drafts in 2011 and 2012, he picked Newton (Offensive Rookie of the Year, three-time Pro Bowler and likely 2015 NFL MVP) and Kuechly (2013 Defensive Player of the Year and three-time Pro Bowler).

Hurney had his fingerprints on this team for a long time. But for now, he wants to keep the focus on the people in the building he sees every day from his studio window.

"They get it done day to day," Hurney said. "They're the ones that have put this team together to form a winning team.

"I'm happy for all of them. The people I know are all good people, starting from [owner] Jerry Richardson on down. I'm thrilled for them. I know how hard it is to get where they have gotten."