Sam Mills, Steve Smith Sr. among Hall of Fame semifinalists

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CHARLOTTE — The Panthers were well-represented Wednesday, with two franchise legends among the 26 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Former linebacker Sam Mills, who has been a finalist for the last two years, again made the cut. He's been a semifinalist five times, and is in his final year of eligibility as a modern-era candidate.

Also, wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., who is eligible for the first time this year, was among the group announced Wednesday afternoon.

The 26 semifinalists will be reduced to 15 finalists, who will then be voted on prior to the Super Bowl. That list will grow to 18 finalists with the inclusion of the recommended nominees of the Hall of Fame's coach, contributor and senior committees: Dick Vermeil, Art McNally and Cliff Branch, respectively.

Today's list was reduced from the initial group of 123 nominees announced in September.

Sam Mills

Smith Sr. was one of seven first-time eligible players to make the list, along with Anquan Boldin, Devin Hester, Andre Johnson, Robert Mathis, DeMarcus Ware, and Vince Wilfork.

Smith led the league in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns in 2005, the highlight of a stellar 16-year career. He's eighth on the league's all-time receiving yards list with 14,731, and 12th in receptions with 1,031.

Mills has been recognized for his leadership of a dominant defense in New Orleans, along with his work building the foundation of the Panthers franchise in its first three years. He also excelled in the USFL, earning his shot and eventually establishing himself as one of the top inside linebackers of his generation.

Defensive end Jared Allen, who played his final season here, was also among the list of 26.

PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2022 SEMIFINALISTS

OFFENSE – 11

RB (3): Eddie George, Fred Taylor, Ricky Watters

WR (6): Anquan Boldin, Torry Holt, Andre Johnson, Steve Smith Sr., Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne

OL (2): Willie Anderson, Tony Boselli

DEFENSE – 13

DB (4): Eric Allen, Ronde Barber, LeRoy Butler, Darren Woodson

LB (4): Sam Mills, Zach Thomas, DeMarcus Ware (also DE), Patrick Willis

DL (5): Jared Allen, Robert Mathis (also LB), Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, Bryant Young

SPECIAL TEAMS – 2

Devin Hester (also WR), Steve Tasker (also WR)

A look at some of the best pictures of Steve Smith Sr. during his career with the Panthers.

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