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Ihmir Smith-Marsette comes to Carolina with a glowing recommendation

Ihmir Smith-Marsette

CHARLOTTE – Ihmir Smith-Marsette had a lot of factors working in his favor en route to Carolina.

He posted an impressive preseason with the Chiefs and finished as the second-most productive pass-catcher in the league. Connecting on nine of his 10 targets for 195 yards and two touchdowns was enough to grab the Panthers' attention for the trade deal with Kansas City to get him here just before cutdown day.

But a strong recommendation from Adam Thielen played a role too, as head coach Frank Reich shared.

Adam Thielen, Ihmir Smith-Marsette

The two played for the Vikings during Smith-Marsette's rookie year in 2021, and he left a strong impression with the veteran receiver. Reich said getting "inside information from another player always is helpful," and Thielen had plenty of good things to say about him.

"(He's) just a guy who's got big potential," Thielen said. "Obviously, he showed it in the preseason. But his ability to make plays, not only when the ball's in the air but with the ball in his hands, and then his ability to be a punt returner and do a lot for this team.

"It's good to see him again. He's got a big personality, so it's always fun to see him."

Smith-Marsette is another option for the Panthers as a return man, earning the Big Ten conference's Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year Award when he was with Iowa in 2018.

He put up more than 1,500 yards and two touchdowns on 53 returns in college, and he's confident enough to say that he will make the most of his chance to do that here – on top of everything else he plans to bring to the Panthers' receiving room.

"I'm the type of person that I say when – so when it happens, when I get that opportunity to be a returner, I'm going to show that any time the ball's touching my hands, it's possible that it's going to go to the house," Smith-Marsette said. "That's my mentality. And shoot, I'm just wanting to attack every time I'm on. Full-go; don't expect somebody that's going to be scared. … That's just who I am, and I'm going to take full control of every opportunity I get out there."

Ihmir Smith-Marsette

He's popped around a few rosters since getting to the league three years ago. Starting in Minnesota, Smith-Marsette was waived just before the 2022 season and spent a brief time with the Bears that year before the Chiefs picked him up in October.

Smith-Marsette has seen action in 16 games in his NFL career, spending time on practice squads in the meantime. But he said he came into his third preseason with a new confidence.

"My first two (seasons) were a little rocky, and confidence wasn't there," he said. "But going into my third year, I wasn't going to let nothing shake my confidence. I know I belong in this league. I'm one of those people with that dog in them. So I just felt like I had to go out there and just be myself.

"That's something I was able to do, and I got the job done. I'm here now. And I'm ready to just showcase that in this offense and show the Panthers, the organization, the fans that I'm one of those players that can provide a big spark. That's just my mentality. I'm a big play waiting to happen, and it could happen at any moment."

Smith-Marsette said he wasn't surprised when a call to a 53-man roster came after his performance in the preseason. He felt confident in what he was able to show, so all he could feel was gratitude.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette

"I felt like something was going to have to be done; I felt like I did what I needed to do in the preseason to just go out there and get another opportunity," he said. "When I got the call, I was just thankful. (I) thank the man upstairs for giving me another shot, getting to play the game of football on a 53-man roster.

"(I'm) just thankful for Carolina, showing the interest they had in me and coming to get me. I've been feeling good. I'm feeling the energy around the team, and I like it."

Whatever weight Thielen's recommendation held in the ultimate decision to bring Smith-Marsette on, the act meant a lot for the third-year player looking for a chance. Knowing that a veteran getting to know him as a rookie saw that much out of him, it went a long way.

And he's excited to play alongside him again.

"To know that I proved myself my rookie year to Adam, that he would go to the front office and say those things about me and let them know what type of person I am, I'm just thankful for Adam for that," Smith-Marsette said. "I had a great rookie year with him mentoring me, letting me know the ins and outs of the NFL and how things work. So I'm just thankful for Adam and what he's been able to do not just on (the field) but off the field also. We're back out again, and I think it's going to be really fun."

View photos of the Panthers' practice on Wednesday.

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