The Carolina Panthers Hall of Honor was established in 1997 to honor individuals for their outstanding contributions to the Carolina Panthers. Honorees are recognized with life-size, bronze statues, which stand next to Bank of America Stadium's north entrance.
Mike McCormack, the first inductee into the Carolina Panthers Hall of Honor, was a guiding force in the construction of the team and a trusted advisor to the Richardson family during the bid to land an NFL expansion franchise for the Carolinas.
"There is no one more appropriate than Mike to start our Hall of Honor," said Carolina Panthers Owner and Founder Jerry Richardson. "The Carolina Panthers would not even exist without Mike's contributions, and he epitomizes all we want the Panthers to symbolize."
While McCormack's National Football League career spanned five decades with a number of teams, he may have left his most permanent mark on the Panthers. Starting as a consultant in 1989, McCormack provided an invaluable contact for the Richardson ownership group as they lobbied NFL ownership and hierarchy for credibility early in the expansion process. After the Panthers overcame overwhelming odds to land the franchise by a unanimous vote in October 1993, McCormack became the team's first general manager before later being name president.
"Mike provided a road map for our organization, and we have reaped the benefits of his foresight and experience," said successor Mark Richardson. "By his induction as the original member of our Hall of Honor, it sets a high standard for all who follow."
McCormack played in the NFL from 1951-1962 for the New York Yanks and Cleveland Browns, making six Pro Bowl appearances and establishing himself as one of the finest offensive tackles in the game while blocking for legendary Browns running back Jim Brown. Following his career as a player, McCormack was an assistant coach for the Washington Redskins and head coach for the Baltimore Colts and Philadelphia Eagles. He also served as interim head coach of the Seattle Seahawks before becoming the team's president and general manager. McCormack was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984.
Sam Mills, the first former Panthers player to be inducted into the Carolina Panthers Hall of Honor, proved to be a difference maker and team leader during his three seasons as left inside linebacker for Carolina.
"Sam Mills has meant a great deal to this organization and has set a high standard for our players both on and off the field," said Carolina Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson. "It is only fitting that he is recognized with the Carolina Panthers highest honor."
While Mills had a long NFL career, his accomplishments with the Panthers were the basis of his selection. His memorable interception return for a touchdown spurred Carolina to the first win in team history in 1995, and his interception against Dallas sealed the Panthers victory in the NFC Divisional playoff following the 1996 season. In his three years with the Panthers, Mills recorded 385 tackles in addition to ten sacks, six fumble recoveries and seven interceptions.
Mills played 15 years as a professional, starting 171 of 181 NFL games and earning five Pro Bowl selections. He appeared in his final Pro Bowl as a representative of the Panthers in 1996 at the age of 37.
Regarded as one of the most savvy players in the game, Mills led his team in tackles 10 times and eclipsed the 100-tackle plateau in eight seasons. As a prized unrestricted free agent in 1995, Mills became the cornerstone of the Panthers defense and was the only player to start every game during the Panthers first three seasons.
Carolina Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson once said, "The fan is the most valuable member of our team." That was true even before the Carolinas were awarded an NFL franchise and continues to be true today.
The Panthers have more than 25,000 PSL Owners who have purchased more than 63,000 PSL's, which have helped finance the stadium. PSL Owners have contributed to all but two games being sold out since the stadium opened in 1996.
Engraved on black granite at the base of each of the six panthers named "Indomitable Spirit," who guard Bank of America Stadium's three main entrances, are the names of the team's original PSL holders.
"Without the help of the PSL Owner we would not have the stadium, the team or the franchise," Richardson said. "It is only appropriate to honor them with others who have made extraordinary contributions during our first decade."