My Mount Rushmore of Carolina Panthers

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13
8:00
AM ET
So LeBron James says he belongs on the Mount Rushmore of NBA players when he hangs up his sneakers, and now the entire sporting world feels the urge to sculpt a granite mountain of superstars.

Three of my all-time Carolina Panthers -- linebacker Sam Mills, kicker John Kasay and wide receiver Steve Smith -- were easy selections. The fourth, not so much.

Do you go with Julius Peppers, the team's all-time sack leader who left four years ago for Chicago? Or how about Jake Delhomme, the only quarterback to get Carolina to a Super Bowl? Or what about offensive tackle Jordan Gross, who has started all but a handful of games since being selected in the first round of the 2003 draft?

I could argue that owner Jerry Richardson, who fought to bring a team to the Carolinas, belongs on the side of this hill. But I prefer to stick to players the way Gutzon Borglum did presidents in South Dakota.

If you agree with my picks, voice your opinion to @DNewtonESPN on Twitter. If you disagree, tell it to LeBron.

Here you go. The Panthers' Mount Rushmore:

Sam Mills: To omit him would be like leaving George Washington off the real Mount Rushmore. Mills became the face of the Panthers during their first three seasons (1995-97) and in many ways still is, nearly nine years after his death. He represented class, hard work, integrity ... everything that Richardson wanted when he founded the organization. Mills' interception against the Jets in 1995 sealed the team's first victory. His "Keep Pounding" message when diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2003 continues to live in current teams. His No. 51 is the only number that has been retired in the team's 19 seasons. No other Carolina player has a statue outside the stadium or his name on the Hall of Honor.

John Kasay: Yes, a place-kicker. Kasay is the longest tenured player (1995-2010) in Carolina history. His left foot established almost every team kicking record -- not to mention a few NFL records. He is the team's all-time leading scorer (1,482 points) and the most likely candidate to earn a spot in the Hall of Honor after Mills when the mandatory five-year waiting period is over. Kasay exudes class. When his kickoff sailed out of bounds to set up New England's game-winning field goal in the 2004 Super Bowl he stood in front of his locker and answered every question. No debating this one.

Steve Smith: He's had a few tumultuous moments during the past 13 seasons, but there's no denying his passion, heart and talent. He is the team's all-time leader in receptions (836) and receiving yards (12,197). He has been selected to five Pro Bowls. And he's not done yet, expected to play at least one or two more seasons

Jordan Gross: He has 167 career starts, mostly protecting the quarterback's blind side at left tackle, since Carolina selected him with the eighth pick of the 2003 draft. He's a three-time Pro Bowl selection. He has been a part of four Carolina teams that won 12 games, including the playoffs. There have been only five 12-win seasons in team history. Like Mills was, Gross is a team leader and represents class. Unlike LeBron, he'd never say he belonged on this list, which is why he's on mine.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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