CHARLOTTE — Former Panthers linebacker Sam Mills was named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the NFL announced on Thursday night.
Mills was named a semifinalist in November.
This is the first time that he's been selected as a finalist for the Hall of Fame.
Mills became one of the original Panthers in 1995 after spending his first nine seasons with the Saints.
He had 331 tackles, 10.0 sacks and seven interceptions during the three years he was with the Panthers.
His pick-six interception led to Carolina's first win as a franchise in 1995.
In 1996, Mills was a Pro Bowler and named AP All-Pro First Team as he led Carolina to a division championship, a home playoff victory and a spot in the NFC Championship game in the team’s second year of existence, the Panthers reported.
Mills retired in 1997 and became a Panthers defensive assistant and then linebackers coach until 2004.
Mills' battle with cancer while he still coached led to his "Keep Pounding" speech before the team's home playoff victory over Dallas in the 2003 Wild Card round.
Mills implored the players and coaches to always Keep Pounding no matter what obstacle got in their way.
He died from cancer in 2005.
Mills is the only Panther whose number, No. 51, as been retired, and he is a member of the Panthers Hall of Honor.
The finalists will be presented to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee during its annual meeting on Feb. 1, the day before Super Bowl LIV.
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