The New Orleans Saints are 51 days away from their Week 1 clash with the Pack. Here is a look at one of New Orleans Saints' greatest players to wear #51: LB Sam Mills.
Sam Mills, 1959-2005, played twelve NFL Seasons, nine with the New Orleans Saints. A native of Neptune City, NJ, Mills attended Long Branch High School, where he was a standout Wrestler and Football player. After High School, Mills walked on to the football team at Montclair State College (now University). In his college career, he was a three-time NJAC first-team All-Star and won Defensive Player of the Year three consecutive years (1978-1980).
The Cleveland Browns signed Mills as a UDFA, but he was released before the season. Following signing and being released by the CFL's Toronto Argonauts that same summer, Mills took a job teaching at East Orange High School in N.J.
Shortly after taking the teaching position, the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL extended an invitation for Mills to attend Training Camp. GM of the Stars Carl Peterson said, "He [Mills] lit it up." Mills spent three years in the USFL with the Stars earning two USFL championships and three All-USFL team selections.
Following a USFL championship in 1985, Philadelphia Stars Head Coach Jim Mora was hired as the coach of the New Orleans Saints. A year later, his standout LB followed, as Sam Mills joined the Saints in 1986. Mills anchored the Saints defense for nearly a decade making 934 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and recovering 17 fumbles. Mills was selected to four Pro-Bowls (1987, 1988, 1991, 1992) in nine seasons with the Saints.
The Saints' "Dome Patrol," formed in 1986, consisted of Sam Mills, Rickey Jackson, Vaughan Johnson and Pat Swilling. The group of LBs stayed together from 1986-1992. In that span, the four LBs combined for 18 Pro-Bowl appearances, including all four LBs making the Pro-Bowl in 1992. This Pro-Bowl remains as the only time in NFL history that all four LBs from the same team were selected to the same Pro-Bowl roster as starters.
After the 1994 season, Mills joined the Carolina Panthers. Mills joined the 1995 NFL Expansion team on a two-year contract. He was selected to the Pro-Bowl in 1997 at the age of 37. At the time, he was the oldest player in NFL history to make the Pro-Bowl.
Sam Mills joined the Panthers coaching staff as a defensive assistant and later the LB's coach in 1998 after retiring following the 1997 season. In 2003, he was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. His plea to "Keep Pounding" in a speech to the team during their NFC title run in 2003 was coined as the team's slogan. Mills passed away in his Charlotte home in 2005.
As a member of the New Orleans Saints, Mills dressed in 135 games, starting 125. He was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Panthers Wall of Honor in 2003. Mills was a five-time Pro-Bowler and 3x First-Team All-Pro selection. 15 year NFL coach Jim Mora said, "He was the best player I ever coached."
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