Their surnames are Shula, Mills and Turner and they have a coaching pedigree that may be second to none, because they are all on one staff.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera has his own version of My Three Sons, a trio of assistants whose fathers left an indelible mark in the NFL, but now try to carve out their own niche in making Carolina a powerhouse in the very competitive NFC South Division.
Mike Shula, Sam Mills III and Scott Turner are the Panthers quarterbacks, defensive quality control and assistant defensive line, and offensive quality control coaches, respectively.
Mike Shula’s dad is Hall of Fame Head Coach Don Shula, Class of 1997, who is best known for an NFL record 347 wins and leading the Miami Dolphins to the only undefeated championship team in league annals back in 1973, when they were 17-0.
The younger Shula has 24 years of coaching experience––20 in the NFL––and may be best remembered for helping to develop one of the great young quarterbacks in Cam Newton, who not only won the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year, but setting numerous records along the way.
“He’s an unbelievable sounding board,” Mike said of his father, now 82. “Whenever I’ve had to ask tough questions, I’ve always gone to him first because he’s not going to give me the answer that I want to hear – he’s going to give me the answer that I need to hear.”
Mills’ father played on the inaugural Panthers team in 1995 as a linebacker and accumulated 20.5 sacks before winding down his 12-year career after the 1997 season. He would move into coaching, and while a member of the Panthers staff as a linebacker and linebackers coach, he became an inspirational leader as he battled cancer––a battle that he lost six years ago. He is the only player to have his number retired and be inducted into the team’s Hall of Honor.
“It’s an honor, especially around here with how he was able to touch people’s lives,” Mills III said about his late father. “I hope that I can live up to it.”
Sam Mills III joined the Panthers in 2005 and worked with defensive line coach Eric Washington in 2011 on a group that accounted for 25.5 of the team’s 31 sacks. Like his dad, he played at Montclair (NJ) State as a defensive back for the Red Hawks, starting 20 games in two seasons and totaling 71 tackles, two interceptions, 14 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Turner is a Nevada-Las Vegas product and joined the Panthers last year after three seasons with the University of Pittsburgh under Dave Wannstedt. He was promoted to wide receivers coach in 2010 and helped Jon Baldwin earn All-Big East first-team honors and contributed to the Panthers’ co-conference championship team. Baldwin was a first round pick by the Chiefs in 2011.
Scott is the son of current Chargers head coach Norv Turner, who is one of just six coaches to lead a team to a conference championship in his first season. He helped the Dallas Cowboys win back-to-back Super Bowls as an offensive coordinator in the 1990s. Prior to his stint with San Diego, he also guided the Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins.
“He’s obviously had the biggest influence of anybody on me,” Scott said of his father. “I ask him questions about football all the time, and it’s not just X’s and O’s but it’s decision making, philosophy, stuff like that that you can’t see necessarily from watching tape.”
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.