A friend of a friend-Sam Mills-Kevin Steele-October 27

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for October 27, 2015.

My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

I have vices like most human beings. One of them is I love to watch the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have a motto “Keep Pounding”.

Thomas Davis #58 Pounding the Drum.

thomas davis keep pounding

On Sunday night they played the Philadelphia Eagles on the Sunday night game which meant an 8:30 p.m. kickoff. I am usually in bed most nights no later than 9:00 p.m. so this vice watching the Panthers defeat the Eagles 27-16 meant getting to bed at 11:45 p.m.

As I watched the game I thought about how spectacular the Panther linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are. If any position exemplifies the motto “Keep Pounding” it is the current Panther linebackers.

Luke Kuechly

I also reflected on who were some of the early Panther season linebackers. The Panthers had Sam Mills who played for three seasons 1995-97. Sam Mills was named to the NFL All-Pro team three times, in 1991, 1992, and 1996. The Panthers also had Kevin Greene who played one year for the team in 1996 only to come back for the 1998-99 seasons. Kevin Greene repeated his honor of being named NFC Linebacker of the year an honor he won with the Panthers in 1996. Today Kevin Greene is an assistant football coach with a the Green Bay Packers.

Kevin Greene

The Panthers early on also had a linebacker named Lamar Lathon. Lamar was a first round pick in the 1990 NFL draft and played for the Panthers from 1995-1998.

All of these linebackers were coached by Kevin Steele. Kevin served as the Linebacker Coach for the Panthers from 1995-1998 and in 1995 I got to know Kevin and several other Panther coaches and front office staff. Kevin left the pro game in 1998 and went to be Head Coach at Baylor (who today is undefeated), the defensive coordinator at Clemson (2009-2012) who today are undefeated, along with stops at Florida State and Alabama.

On the sidelines with Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swiney. Kevin on left.

Kevin Steele Clemson

1995 was the first year of existence for the Carolina Panthers. Many fans forget that they played all of their 1995 home games at Clemson. In 1995 work on then Ericksson Stadium now called Bank of America Stadium was not finished for the first season. In addition to the stadium not being finished the Panthers had not permanent in season training location. They used Wofford College for preseason but Wofford had a football team of their own so they needed to find something close to Charlotte for the 1995 season. The Panthers choose Winthrop University. In 1995 I was the Head Basketball Coach at Winthrop and got to know Kevin Steele. One of the neat things was I actually got a game football from the Panthers when they moved out in the spring of 1996.

Carolina Panther Game Ball

Kevin Steele is currently the Defensive Coordinator at L.S.U. which is undefeated and ranked #4 in the country. He is in his first year in that position. Kevin is from Dillon, SC and replaced John Chavis who is from Dillon, SC. Kevin attended the University of Tennessee after spending his freshman year at Furman University. Dillon, SC is not a big place but both Kevin Steele and John Chavis are from Dillon, SC. John Chavis is currently the defensive coordinator for Texas A&M.

John Chavis

Today L.S.U and the Carolina Panthers are both undefeated. Kevin Steele’s former Carolina Panther Linebacker Sam Mills died in 2005 at the age of 45. I think Kevin and Sam would both be proud of the linebacker play the Panthers have today.


Kevin Steele

The Friend of the Friend-SAM MILLS


Sam Mills Mighty Mouse

Sam Mills died at the age of 45 of cancer but approached that disease like he did everything in his life by fighting it.

An undersized linebacker out of Montclair (N.J.) State who failed several times to catch on with NFL and Canadian Football League teams, Mills gave professional football one last shot when the USFL debuted in 1983. After Mills starred in that league with the Philadelphia Stars for three years, coach Jim Mora brought him along to the Saints in 1986.

Mills spent nine NFL seasons with the Saints, then joined the expansion Panthers in 1995. He finished his career with 1,319 tackles and started in 173 of 181 games.

Mills was elected to Louisiana’s Sports Hall of Fame, and he’s also a member of New Jersey’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Mills moved to the Panthers in 1995, and figured prominently in the franchise’s first win, against the Jets on Oct. 15, 1995, when he intercepted a shovel pass and returned it 36 yards for a key touchdown.

He led the team in tackles in 1995 and `96, when the Panthers won the NFC West and made a surprise run to the conference title game.

Mills joined the Panthers’ coaching staff upon his retirement. His legacy lives on in a lot of different ways. Sam, is the only Panthers player to have his number retired and is the only player inducted into the team’s Hall of Honor.


When he was playing  his son Sam  Mills III worked as a ball boy at training camp and later in the equipment room before joining the strength and conditioning program in 2005.


Today Sam Mills III is an assistant defensive line coach in his 11th season with the Panthers.

Kevin Steele and Sam Mills III “Keep Pounding”. Sam is watching both of you.

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