Skip to main content
Carolina Panthers

Steve Smith Sr. shares wisdom, joins in at rookie minicamp

Steve Smith Sr.

CHARLOTTE – Jonathan Mingo has admired Steve Smith Sr. since his childhood.

On his first day of rookie minicamp as a Panther, the second-round wide receiver had the chance to be mentored by the former receiver and Carolina legend.

Smith joined the Panthers on the practice field Friday – which was also his birthday. He shared words of wisdom with rookies and tryout players, spoke with coaches and staff, and even got involved in wide receiver drills, tossing balls to the players during individual workouts.

"I love the attitude he brought to the game," Mingo said about Smith. "If there's one receiver in the league you didn't want to mess with, it was Steve Smith. He didn't play. He played like a running back after the catch; you can see his toughness and meanness. You can just look at him and see he's all about business. He doesn't play, so it's a blessing just to talk it up, chop it up (about) ball with him. He gave me the ins and outs, just trying to help me become a better football player." 

Head coach Frank Reich proudly grinned when he was asked about Smith's minicamp attendance, sharing the hope that he'd continue to stop by practices. 

"I love to see Steve out there," Reich said. "You can just feel his energy. (He) got involved in a little drill workout there. That was great. Had him say a few words to the guys afterwards. He just speaks, and it's like, 'OK, this guy's got some presence.' What he says is going to carry weight with those guys.

"And I liked what he said, pushing the guys. Like, 'Let's go. I mean, this is a great opportunity you have, but we've got to go harder. We've got to be on top of our game.' It's kind of cool that we get him here, and hope to see a lot of him out here." 

Former Panther linebacker Luke Kuechly was spotted on the sidelines at practice during voluntary veteran minicamp in April.

Eighteen tryout players joined the Panthers' five drafted rookies and 12 undrafted rookies, including linebacker Gavin Greene, son of Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end/outside linebacker and former Panther Kevin Greene, and wide receiver Austin Proehl, son of former Panther wide receiver and assistant coach Ricky Proehl. 

Reich said he looked forward to evaluating all of the participants at this year's rookie minicamp, with the background knowledge that recently acquired wide receiver Adam Thielen was a player picked up from a tryout by the Vikings in 2013. 

"I'll give Scott Fitterer, Dan Morgan, and the scouting staff a lot of credit," Reich said. "We feel good about the tryout guys that we got in. (There's) just story after story of these guys making (a) team and going on to have a long career. 

"I was talking about it with somebody today – somebody in our personnel department walking off the field – starting to identify, 'OK, here's the tryout guys, who might we keep?' It's exciting. This is what this league is all about, opportunities to compete and show what you can do. I'm excited for the guys."

– One of the players trying out during this year's rookie minicamp swapped jerseys midway through day one and will work out as both a linebacker and a tight end.

Jordan Thomas, a tight end who most recently played in the XFL, will don both No. 85 and No. 99 throughout the weekend as he works out with both position groups. He was drafted in the sixth round by the Texans in 2018 as a tight end and stopped with four other teams before heading to the XFL in 2022.

"It's exciting and a little challenging because you've to try to split up the reps," Reich said. "But you've got two days to do that, just to try to get a feel for, 'Is there a fit? Where's the right fit?'

"I'm actually looking forward to talking to the coaches about that when we get in (meetings). See how things are going, what's the plan for tomorrow as well, and how we, in those two days, can get an evaluation of where the best fit might be."

View photos from the Panthers' first day of rookie minicamp on Friday.

Related Content