Jake Delhomme. Undrafted out of Southwestern Louisiana. Two stints in what was NFL Europe. A third-string quarterback in the NFL.
Those guys don’t end up in the Hall of Honor.
But there was always something different about Jake.
“Chills went through my body,” Delhomme said when asked how he reacted to the call from Panthers owner David Tepper. “I’m very rarely speechless. But I was kind of taken aback. Floored. Honored. The memories just started going through my head.
“I hold this place really close to my heart.”
To truly understand how much the Panthers mean to Delhomme, look no further than his goodbye press conference on March 5, 2010.
The gunslinger who took Carolina to Super Bowl XXXVIII signed a five-year extension ahead of the 2009 campaign but struggled that season before being placed on injured reserve. Then he was blindsided with the news that he was being released.
“That day – I remember it like yesterday,” Delhomme said.
Press conferences have a tendency to be mundane and predictable. They’re hardly memorable in most cases.
This one – Delhomme’s goodbye – was different.
He walked into the media room already struggling to contain the emotions.
“Allergies are bad this time of year,” he joked as he took a seat.
He tried to start speaking but couldn’t. He needed a few moments to gather himself.
“To think back to March of 2003. I came here on a visit. A nobody,” Delhomme told reporters before taking another long pause. “I apologize. These are joyful emotions that I’m feeling. That’s the honest to God truth.
“When I signed here in ’03 I wanted a chance to play quarterback in the NFL. I got that chance, and I think I made the most of it. I ran with it and we had a good run.”
As for the extremely emotional goodbye? That’s emblematic of Delhomme. His emotions were always out in the open.
“That’s me. That’s who I am, and I went with it,” Delhomme said. “I knew I would be emotional, but it was the people walking into it who were all there. To see their emotions, it really got the best of me. That’s what embodied what I believed about this organization. It wasn’t just the players, it was the office staff to the equipment staff to the trainers to (team ambassador) John Coleman – just everything. This was my place. It rarely ends storybook in the NFL, it just doesn’t. And I knew that.”
Well, it does have a storybook ending after all.
Delhomme was once a nobody. Then he led the Panthers to their first Super Bowl appearance in his first year as a full-time starter.
Now he’s going into Carolina’s Hall of Honor.
“I never entertained that thought,” Delhomme said of it ending this way. “I cared more about the relationships I had with the people in the building. That was kind of my deal. And then did we win or lose? It’s a huge honor. Difficult to put into words.”
Photos of quarterback Jake Delhomme throughout his years as a Carolina Panther.