As the Carolina Panthers finish preparing for another season of football, I recently sifted through piles of stats to determine which players (past and present) are candidates for the teams highest praise, the Ring of Honor. Joining Sam Mills, Mike McCormick, and the PSL Owners, forever etched in stone at Bank of America stadium should come as no surprise for one of my 8 nominees:
John Kasay – K – 1995-2010
Kasay was signed before the inaugural season is the all-time points leader. He made well over 400 field goals during his 16 years here (which is also longer than any other player in Panthers history) and was selection to the 1996 Pro Bowl game. John still holds many NFL records and even thanked the city of Charlotte and the franchise for their support when he was released in the 2011 off-season. Known for his strong leg and leadership John Kasay will not only go down as one of Carolina’s best players ever but one of the best kickers in NFL history.
Kevin Greene – LB – 1996, 1998-1999
With his long blonde hair, the fiery linebacker racked up 41.5 sacks during his three years in Charlotte and was named to the Pro Bowl in ’96 & ’98. An All-Pro in ’96, Greene earned various awards and helped the Panthers reach the NFC Championship Game in only their second season. Kevin also had a passion for pro-wrestling and during his career in World Championship Wrestling fought in a pay per view match at Slamboree 1997 at the Independence Arena in Charlotte. Greene earned the victory for his team in the main event while his tag team partners Ric Flair and Roddy Piper helped take down the nWo trio of Kevin Nash, Syxx, and Scott Hall.
Wesley Walls – TE – 1996-2002
One of the elite tight ends in all of football during his time in a Panther uniform, Wesley Walls was a 5 time pro bowler and 4 time All Pro. One of the most popular players with the franchise, #85 caught 324 passes for 3,902 yards and 44 touchdowns. Showing his versatility, Walls was even the back up punter for a while.
Michael Bates – WR – 1996-2000
With 5 straight trips to the Pro Bowl and 5 straight All Pro seasons (the most in team history), Michael Bates was one of the best kick returners in the game. Responsible for 5,987 yards and 5 touchdowns with the Panthers, he was named to the NFL 90’s All Decade Team. His average of 25.7 yards per return had a huge impact on special teams.
Muhsin Muhammad – WR – 1996-2004, 2008-2009
Drafted in 1996 out of Michigan State, “Moose” had 696 receptions, 9,255 yards, and 50 touchdowns during his years in Charlotte. An All Pro in 2004 and a 2 time Pro Bowler in ’99 & ’04, Moose caught the longest touchdown reception in Super Bowl history (85 yards) at the lone appearance in the big game for the Panthers.
Steve Smith – WR – 2001-Present
One of the most charismatic and intense receivers in the league, Steve Smith was drafted by the Panthers in 2001 and has played his whole career here. He earned Pro Bowl and All Pro honors as a rookie in 2001 with appearances in the Pro Bowl again in ’05, ’06, & ’08. Smith held the NFL ‘triple crown’ in 2005 leading the league with 103 receptions, 1563 yards, and 12 touchdowns. Steve is one of the most respected players on the team, overcoming physical altercations with former players Anthony Bright and Ken Lucas.
Julius Peppers – DE – 2002-2009
Nicknamed “The Freak of Nature”, Julius not only grew up in North Carolina, not only played football and basketball at the University of North Carolina, but was drafted with the #2 overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft by the hometown Carolina Panthers. The NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in ’02, Peppers was a 5 time Pro Bowler, a 4 time All Pro, and named to the NFL All 2000’s Decade Team. His departure from the team has been a sore subject for fans but his raw talent is undeniable.
Jake Delhomme – QB – 2003-2009
The man Chris Berman called “Jake ‘daylight come and you gotta’ Delhomme” holds virtually every Panthers quarterback record. After several years of being the back up in New Orleans and playing in NFL Europe, Jake led the team to Super Bowl XXXVIII in his first year with the Panthers. Delhomme also took Carolina to the 2005 NFC Championship game and back to the playoffs in 2008. As the longtime spokesperson for Bojangles, Jake still has many sponsorships in Charlotte.
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