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Former Panthers safety hoping for big National Signing Day


CHARLOTTE – Former Panthers safety Mike Minter has been in big games before.

Wednesday, he's simply hoping to get a little mail that used to be a little higher up on the desk.

Now the head coach at Campbell University, Minter is hoping to get back to some of the momentum he had built with the program on National Signing Day. He took over the job in 2013, and helped them transition from a non-scholarship program to the FCS level of Division I in 2018.

"This is not the same job anymore, even though we have the same logo," Minter said. "Building the program back when we were non-scholarship was a different challenge, trying to raise awareness, raise money, build some support.

"Then we built a Division I roster from scratch, and started changing the way people think about Campbell football."

In terms of recruiting, that means making sure the prospects in the state of North Carolina and beyond know they're there.

"You go into a high school coach's office, and they've all got players," Minter said. "But the Division I guys are in drawer number one, and they used to give us the guys who might be walk-ons, or smaller school guys, they're down there in drawer number two.

"We're working to get to the point where we're getting drawer one guys."

Minter had led the Camels to three straight winning seasons from 2017-19, and a six-game winning streak in 2019 even got them some Top 25 votes.

They were not, however, immune to 2020.

When COVID-19 forced the Big South Conference to postpone all fall sports, individual programs were allowed to schedule up to four non-conference games to fill in the blanks.

Campbell went 0-4 in those games, but all four were against FBS teams that played in bowls and were a combined 32-14 last season (Georgia Southern, Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State, and Wake Forest).

That means it's time to build back, but Minter is no stranger to that.

After playing 10 years in the NFL, the former Panthers safety wondered what he was going to do next when he retired after the 2006 season. And at first, he steered himself away from a life on the football field.

"What I found out was that this is my calling, even though I tried to run from it," Minter said. "For a few years, I tried to stay away from it, thinking I needed to do something different.

"At the end of the day, you are what you are, and I had spent my whole life in the game. I knew I had a knack for leading groups, and knew the game, so I took a step back in."

At first, that was at the high school level, and he told himself he'd give it five years. It took two years to win his first state title at First Assembly Christian School in Concord.

For a guy who won two national championships at Nebraska and appeared in Super Bowl XXXVIII with the Panthers, that just scratched the itch, leading him to work as an assistant at Johnson C. Smith and Liberty.

Now, he has a program of his own, one he's helped put on the map.

He's hoping Wednesday marks another step in that journey.

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