NFC South: all-time greats

Greatest Panther Ever?

July, 3, 2008
7/03/08
3:20
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Just read an item in the Charlotte Observer in which former co-worker Scott Fowler selects the two greatest Carolina Panthers of all time. He comes up with two answers based on class and production, and I agree with both of his choices.

He lists linebacker Sam Mills as the classiest Carolina player ever. I didn't get to Charlotte in time to cover Mills' career as a player, but he was working as an assistant coach and still making a huge impact on the entire organization. The guy was nothing but class right up through the final days of his brutal battle with cancer. Let's take it a little further in this category. I'll go with former Carolina quarterback Steve Beuerlein, who took on the role of team spokesman during the Rae Carruth saga, at No. 2 and former linebacker Dan Morgan third. I'll round out the top five with Mike Rucker and Mike Minter.

Fowler's other category is based solely on production and the easy winner there is receiver Steve Smith. Just like Rucker and Minter wouldn't get a lot of consideration for greatest player based solely on production, Smith probably wouldn't stand a chance in the class category. His behavior has been boorish at times and he's nicknamed "The Little Monster'' by the Carolina media.

But that's not important because we're basing this on what Smith has done on the field and nobody's done more for the Panthers than he has. He could end up being the team's first Hall of Famer. Former tight end Wesley Walls would be my No. 2 because he was very good for a long time. No. 3 will draw some argument because this guy was never very popular or appreciated by fans, but when Kris Jenkins was taking care of himself and before he hit a couple of major injuries, he was the best defensive tackle in the league. Go back and look up his Pro Bowl appearances. Quarterback Jake Delhomme, who's better than a lot of people give him credit for, is No. 4. Five is a tough call because there are probably four or five guys for whom you could make a case.

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