Panthers legend Sam Mills is a finalist again for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, returning to the discussion for a second straight year.
That's positive momentum for Mills, who was eligible for 17 years before he made the final 15, and recognizes the work he did leading great defenses in three cities, and laying the foundation for the Panthers from their inaugural year.
Mills made his mark in the USFL, and became the heart of the Saints "Dome Patrol" defense before coming to the Panthers as one of their first free agent targets in 1995. After his retirement, he joined the team as an assistant coach, and his "Keep Pounding" mantra from his battle with cancer remains a central piece of the team's history, and a message players see every day.
Voting for the Hall of Fame will take place on Jan. 19.
The list of finalists announced Tuesday night also included defensive end Jared Allen, who played his final season with the Panthers in 2015.
The finalists also include three other first-year eligibles — quarterback Peyton Manning, defensive back Charles Woodson, and wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Cornerback Ronde Barber and linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. were also named finalists for the first time, having been eligible previously.
The remaining finalists include: tackle Tony Boselli, safety LeRoy Butler, guard Alan Faneca, wide receiver Torry Holt, safety John Lynch, defensive lineman Richard Seymour, linebacker Zach Thomas, and wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
The Hall's selection committee will narrow that list to a maximum of five choices, and also vote on coach Tom Flores, contributor Bill Nunn, and seniors nominee Drew Pearson separately.