No phrase offers more insight into Carolina Panthers nation than the motto first uttered over a decade ago: Keep Pounding.
On Jan. 2, 2004, one day before the biggest game in the team's history to that point (a playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys), Panthers player turned assistant coach Sam Mills urged the team to keep fighting and for the first time, to keep pounding.
The five-time Pro Bowl linebacker had been diagnosed with cancer a year before and was given only months to live, but he continued coaching in the midst of chemotherapy treatments.
After a two-year battle Mills died, but his speech inspired the team to win that game and start the Keep Pounding charity in his memory. The charity's mission: to raise fund for cancer patients.
"No matter what happens in life, bigger than football, you have to keep going," said his son, Sam Mills III, a Panthers defensive line coach.
Mills III continues to share the "Keep Pounding" motto with the blessing of Head Coach Ron Rivera, and says many of the players continue to pass it down on their own.
"I've passed it on through Thomas Davis and Charles Johnson, and Thomas has passed it on to Luke (Kuechly)," Rivera said.
Mills III said he noticed an even bigger shift in popularity within the last couple of years with the "Keep Pounding" motto now included on team uniforms, as well as fundraising efforts for the Levine Cancer Institute at Carolinas Medical Center.
“Knowing him, he was so modest, I'm pretty sure he never thought it would get to this,” Mills III said of his father.
“It’s about never quitting,” added former Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad. “It’s about resilience, endurance.”
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