Linebacker Kevin Greene was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night, becoming the first player ever to suit up for the Carolina Panthers to deliver an induction speech at the annual ceremony in Canton, Ohio.
In his speech, Greene expressed his appreciation for the three seasons he spent with the Panthers during his 15-year NFL career.
"My time in Carolina, home of the new Panthers was a tremendous blessing," Greene said. "Thank you all my Carolina Panther brothers out there."
Reggie White, inducted into the Hall posthumously in 2006, is the other former Panthers player to be enshrined. White ranks second in NFL history with 198 sacks; Greene ranks third with 160.
Greene averaged 10.7 sacks a season for his career – which also included stints with the Rams, Steelers and 49ers – but he averaged 13.8 sacks in his three seasons with Carolina. Among others, Greene thanked Dom Capers – his head coach in Carolina and his defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh – and several of his teammates from his years with the Panthers (1996, 1998-99).
Capers introduced Greene for his induction.
"I knew as a head coach that the easiest thing would to be able to point a finger at a player that had had great production and say, 'Watch Kevin. This is how you do it,' " said Capers, whose first head coaching job was as the Panthers' first head coach. "For the young players, that has far more impact than anything else, and he certainly did that. He came in, and his first year with us, he had a lot of success and led the league in sacks again. He really made everyone around him better."
Greene also thanked Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson – "We all felt his love, all felt his commitment," Greene said – as well as two teammates in particular. He thanked running mate Lamar Lathon, who as the other outside linebacker in Carolina's 3-4 defense ranked second in the NFL in sacks to Greene in 1996. He also thanked the late Sam Mills.
"One of my inside linebackers was a fella by the name of Sam Mills, all 5-foot-9 and 218 pounds soaking wet, but this man would stone people and drop them," Greene said. "Just a fine player and a better leader on that team.
"We almost shocked the nation in the second year of existence."
The Panthers advanced the NFC Championship in the franchise's second season and Greene's first with them. Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who played a big role in ending the magical run on that frigid day in January of 1997, was also enshrined in the Hall on Saturday along with fellow quarterback Ken Stabler; wide receiver Marvin Harrison and his longtime coach Tony Dungy; offensive linemen Orlando Pace and Dick Stanfel; and 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr.
View photos from linebacker Kevin Greene's three seasons with the Panthers in 1996 and 1998-99 when he totaled 41.5 sacks.