Sam Mills, an undersized linebacker who became a five-time Pro Bowl player with New Orleans and Carolina and was later an assistant coach for the Panthers, died yesterday after fighting cancer for nearly two years, the Panthers said. He was 45.
Mills, who was diagnosed with cancer of the small intestine in August 2003 but continued to coach Carolina's linebackers between chemotherapy treatments, died at his home.
"Words are inadequate to express what Sam meant to the Panthers organization," Carolina owner Jerry Richardson said. "We were privileged to have him as a member of our family, and we are devastated over this loss."
Mills was diagnosed with cancer hours before he showed up to coach the Panthers' linebackers in their preseason finale. It was a devastating blow to the team, which had learned two weeks earlier that linebacker Mark Fields also had cancer. Carolina restructured its coaching duties the next week to take some of the responsibilities off of Mills. Originally given just a few months to live, Mills battled the cancer and didn't miss a single game.
Carolina went on to win the NFC championship and lost to New England in the Super Bowl.
Mills is survived by his wife, Melanie, and four children: sons Sam III and Marcus and daughters Larissa and Sierra.
-- From News Services