25 Seasons of Panthers Football: A win to savor in 2010

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Capturing their first win of the 2010 season did not come easily to the Panthers. So it was fitting that it was secured by the left foot of kicker John Kasay, who always seemed so comfortable doing what did not appear to come easily to others.

Carolina had lost its first six games of 2010 before hosting the San Francisco 49ers at Bank of America Stadium on October 24 on a beautiful, sunny, 75-degree day.

Kasay was in his 16th season with the team and was "the last original Panther" - the last remaining player from the inaugural 1995 season roster.

That first season, Kasay kicked four field goals in the Panthers' first win in franchise history - a 26-17 victory over the New York Jets - and made the first of what would be many game-winning field goals by hitting a 29-yarder in overtime at New England in the face of a 20-mile-an-hour wind to give Carolina its first ever road win.

Later in his career, Kasay overcame his share of potentially devastating injuries. First, Kasay tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee at Green Bay in December 1999, only to fracture his left kneecap on the first field goal he attempted during training camp the following summer after eight months of intense rehabilitation.

That was why Kasay began carrying X-rays of his surgically repaired knee to work in his duffel bag. The X-rays served as reminders of what he had been through and how his faith in God pulled him through.

He dug into his bag and pulled out those X-rays after connecting on yet another game-winning field goal from 47 yards in overtime at Indianapolis in 2003, telling reporters all he did was kick that funny-looking ball through the uprights and the Lord deserved all the credit for giving him the opportunity to do so.

Then he pointed at the X-rays and added: "You know what I've been through. You know the surgeries and stuff. You know how blessed I am."

Seven years later in 2010, Kasay was still kicking extra points and field goals for Carolina and was still counting his blessings more than the points he was accumulating as the franchise's all-time leading scorer.

On that fall afternoon versus San Francisco, Kasay converted a 47-yard field goal in the first quarter to pull the Panthers within 7-3 before nailing a 55-yarder in the third quarter to give them their first lead of the game at 13-10. The 55-yard field goal was the longest in his career for Carolina and equaled the longest of his NFL career, previously accomplished 17 years earlier in 1993 while playing for the Seattle Seahawks. It also moved Kasay into a second-place tie with Morten Andersen for the most field goals of 50 yards or longer in NFL history with 40.

Kasay's work for the day, however, was not complete.

The Panthers faced a 20-13 deficit late in the fourth quarter, but on the first play after the two-minute warning, quarterback Matt Moore threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver David Gettis - Gettis' second score of the day - to tie it up. Soon after, an interception by cornerback Richard Marshall gave the offense a chance to win in regulation.

A 35-yard pass from Moore to Brandon LaFell - another rookie wide receiver - moved the ball to the San Francisco 22-yard line. Three subsequent running plays netted just three yards, so head coach John Fox signaled that it was time for Kasay to work his magic.

Photos from Carolina's 2-14 season in 2010.

Compared to the two longer attempts earlier in the game, this one was easy - or at least Kasay made it look that way. His boot from 37 yards away split the uprights with 39 seconds left and sealed Carolina's 23-20 win.

After the game, most reporters swarmed to the lockers of players who had made big plays in the game. A few sauntered over to Kasay, who never was that comfortable giving interviews in the media spotlight but was always willing to stick around and say a few words - win or lose - if he knew someone wanted to talk to him.

"I was just doing my job," he said in typical fashion. "I just try to concentrate on doing the same thing every time, no matter what the situation is."

That was Kasay's 11th and final game-winning field goal for Carolina. He played his last NFL season with the New Orleans Saints in 2011, but returned to Bank of America Stadium on May 7, 2013, to retire as a Panther.

Kasay's career numbers over 21 seasons are staggering. He ranks seventh in NFL history with 461 field goals and ninth with 1,970 points. He holds Carolina records with 221 games played, 1,482 points scored, 429 extra points made and 351 field goals made.

But it was never really about the numbers for Kasay. He was a mentor to many teammates through the years, offering guidance on faith, finances and other family matters. Long snapper J.J. Jansen called him "a second father figure," and wide receiver Steve Smith credited Kasay with changing his whole approach to life as a husband and father.

Asked at his retirement to name a couple of his favorite memories, Kasay struggled at first because he never focused on his individual accomplishments. Then he recalled game-winning field goals against Atlanta (twice) and one to cap a four-field-goal-day and win at Tampa Bay in 2006, after which Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden joked that he wouldn't be sending Kasay any Christmas cards.

Then he went all the way back to a 1996 playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys.

"I remember the first playoff game here in '96 with the Cowboys and Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith," Kasay said. "We had to kick a field goal at the end of the game to ice the game that would put us up two scores. We knew if we made this kick, it was over. I was so full of adrenaline, and I remember that when I hit the ball it went over the net. That doesn't happen much here.

"It was such a big day for everybody. You have the events, and then you have the ripple out from the events, and those are as much fun as anything. I would enjoy making a kick and then watching the guys celebrate. Those were special times."

Kasay made it happen again on Oct. 24, 2010 - marking yet another very memorable moment in a remarkable career.

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