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Sam Mills is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for a second time

(9/22/96) Carolina Panther linebacker Sam Mills (51) yells to the crowd as he leaves the field...
(9/22/96) Carolina Panther linebacker Sam Mills (51) yells to the crowd as he leaves the field following Carolina’s 23-7 upset win over San Francisco.(Christopher A. Record/Staff via The Charlotte Observer)
Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 9:27 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Former Carolina Panthers linebacker Sam Mills has been named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for a second time. He is one 15 modern-era players who will be considered for selection.

Mills was named a finalist for the first time last year but was not selected as part of the 2020 class. He was also a semifinalist in 2016 and 2019. This is Mills’ 19th year of eligibility.

Defensive end Jared Allen, who played for the Panthers during the team’s 2015 Super Bowl run, is also a finalist. This is his first year of eligibility.

Allen had two sacks and 27 tackles in 12 regular-season games and had one tackle and one quarterback hit in Super Bowl 50.

The finalists will be considered for election to the Hall of Fame when the selection committee meets virtually January 19. The committee will elect up to five modern-era Players, who must receive a minimum positive vote of 80 percent for election.

Other finalists include cornerback/safety Ronde Barber, tackle Tony Boselli, safety Leroy Butler, guard Alan Faneca, wide receiver Torry Holt, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, safety John Lynch, quarterback Peyton Manning, linebacker Clay Matthews Jr., defensive end/defensive tackle Richard Seymour, linebacker Zach Thomas, wide receiver Reggie Wayne and cornerback/safety Charles Woodson.

Mills is the only player in Panthers history who has his jersey number (No. 51) retired. His number was retired during the 2005 season following his death that year from intestinal cancer. He is also in the Panthers’ Hall of Honor and has a statue outside of Bank of America Stadium.

After spending nine years with the Saints (1986-1994), Mills was one of the original Panthers in 1995. He played in Carolina for three seasons, totaling 331 tackles, seven interceptions, 10 sacks and six forced fumbles. He finished his career with 1,265 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 11 interceptions and 22 forced fumbles. He was a five-time Pro Bowler and a one time First Team All-Pro selection during a remarkable 1996 season, in which the Panthers won the division and made the NFC Championship game.

One of his most notable accomplishments in Carolina was coining the phrase “Keep Pounding.” Mills spent time after his playing career ended as a Panthers assistant coach.

In August 2003, he began his battle with cancer and was given three or four months to live. More than three months later, he delivered his famous speech prior to the team’s 2003 home playoff game vs. the Cowboys, enforcing the message to “keep pounding,” no matter the obstacles. The Panthers reached the Super Bowl that year, and the phrase has become the team’s mantra.

His son, Sam Mills III, was an assistant coach with the Panthers from 2005-19 and is now a member of Ron Rivera’s staff in Washington as the defensive line coach. Rivera shared last month that Mills II told him to “Keep Pounding” while undergoing his own battle with cancer this year.

The only former Panthers players in the Hall of Fame are Reggie White and Kevin Greene. Former general manager Bill Polian is also in the Hall of Fame.

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