It’s Sam Mills birthday so what better time to celebrate the life of one of the great overachievers.
I did a write-up for Sam Mills for nomination into the Ask Your Uncle Hall of Fame. Here is what I had:
Ask Your Uncle Hall of Fame Nominee: Sam Mills (1983-1997 = Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars. New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers)
In a 15 year professional career, Sam Mills prowled as an undersized linebacker. As a 5 time Pro-Bowler and 4 time All-Pro, Mills was a highly respected defensive leader in both the NFL and USFL.
Growing up on the Jersey Shore, his size did not attract interest from bigger schools. He walked on at Montclair State College where he was a three-time NJAC First Team All-Star and was named the New Jersey Collegiate Writers Defensive Player of the Year for three straight seasons (1978–1980).
Again, his size turned off pro scouts and he was undrafted. He tried out for the Toronto Argonauts and did not make the team. While teaching, he tried out for the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL and made the team. There faith paid off as Mills was named a 3x All-USFL player on two championship teams. He was named onto the All-Time USFL team as well.
When Coach Jim Mora moved from the Stars to the New Orleans Saints of the NFL, Sam Mills followed him. He recorded 1,319 in a storied NFL career that took him both to New Orleans and Carolina. His #51 was retired by Carolina prior to his passing from cancer at the age of 45. His spirit and drive gave the Panthers inspiration in their drive to Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Sam Mills showed was living proof of the cliche that all that matters is the size of your heart. #51 brought fear to the hearts of many a professional offense. Let’s hang his jersey in the AYU rafters as an inspiration and reminder of the power of the human spirit.