SAN JOSE, Calif. – Assistant defensive line coach Sam Mills III's face lit up when he heard that the "Keep Pounding" drum might make it across the country for the Panthers' appearance in Super Bowl 50.
"There's a rumor the Keep Pounding drum is heading west," a smiling Mills said to defensive line coach Eric Washington. "We've been joking about that, but I didn't even think it was a possibility."
The drum that has quickly become an integral part of home games has indeed made the road trip to Santa Clara and will be on Carolina's sideline for the big game.
When we first started it (in 2012), people didn't really know how to take it," Mills said. "But now, that drum has come to signify the starting bell of a heavyweight fight. Every Sunday, we're in a heavyweight fight, and when someone hits that drum, it's time to go. We're locked in."
Of course, the power of "Keep Pounding" predates the drum and couldn't be more personal to Mills, whose father was the architect of the stirring sentiment. Stricken with cancer at the outset of the 2003 season, the Panthers' former linebacker turned assistant coach told the team to "keep pounding" in an emotional speech prior to a playoff run that resulted in Carolina's only other Super Bowl appearance.
The addition of the drum has only added to the impact of Mills' legacy. Sam Mills III is up in the coaches' box before every home game – the main reason he himself hasn't banged the drum – but it's still a highlight of game day for him and the Panthers.
"I have not missed one. The organization did a great job of timing it up, and I make sure my eyes are on that drum every time it gets hit," Mills said. "I got excited when Steph Curry did it, and Mr. (Jerry) Richardson, that was awesome that he would be a part of that. But to see Ricky Proehl do it knowing that he was around during that time, and him taking the jacket off and showing his jersey, me and some other coaches in the booth had tears in our eyes.
"My brother did it, with my mom and my sister down there as well. That was really awesome, really nice. It's 98 percent logistics (that I haven't done it), and then two percent of it is that it would probably be difficult for me emotionally to do that and then get back into game mode."