Many great players have been blessed enough to lay down their heart and soul for Carolina. The Panthers, who have represented the NFC conference twice in the Super Bowl (2003,2015), have had phenomenal players year after year – including defensive players of the year, all-pro talents, pro-bowlers and a league MVP. But I had to finalize a top-5 all-time Panthers’ list.
The 3x pro-bowler, 2x All-Pro and Walter Payton Man of the Year recipient will arguably go down as one of the most ferocious human hit-stick linebackers in modern day history. Davis’ ability to read coverages, lock on man-to-man defense during passing downs and infiltrate in the backfield for over 800 tackles, 29 sacks, 11 fumble recoveries, 13 picks for his playing career, speaks for itself. This future Hall of Famer will forever be considered one of the greatest multi-dimensional defensive players in Panthers history.
4. Luke Kuechly
LUUUUUKKKKKEEE chants can still be heard throughout Bank of America stadium from the game changing plays Kuechly made. This 5x Defensive Player of the Year, 5x First team All-Pro, 7x Pro-bowler, NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and 3x Butkus award winner will, without a doubt, be a First-ballot Hall of Famer in Canton. What distinguished Luke from other linebackers was his ability to, not only call the offensive play calls at the line of scrimmage, but his gift of perfecting open field tackles against speedsters (RB’s) and wide-outs. Concussions shortened his playing career and he now serves as a Pro-Scout for the Panthers. During his 8-year playing career, Luke had over 1000 tackles, 18 interceptions and 9 fumble recoveries.
3. Steve Smith
There is no doubt about it that Steve Smith, the bad man himself, not only walked the walk, but talked the talk. Producing in every statistical category imaginable, Smith’s magical 2005 season was highlighted by him leading the league in catches, receiving yards, and touchdowns by a wide receiver. Invoking fear in the face of defensive backs, Steve backed down to no-one and is still considered, to some, the heart & soul of the Panthers. Most notably, Smith will forever have one of the most memorable quotes “Ice Up Son” after obliterating Aqib Talib’s feelings & the Patriots for a 24-20 win in 2013. During his career as a Panther, Smith had over 10,000 receiving yards and 60 receiving touchdowns. Regardless of how his exit was scrutinized, Steve Smith is the best receiver in Panthers’ history. Debate your mother.
2. Julius Peppers
In my opinion, 1 & 2 could go either way depending on if you’re a defensive minded fan or a lover of offensive juggernauts. What separates the two is a MVP. Julius Peppers, the 9x Pro-bowler, 3x First-team all pro, Defensive Rookie of the Year and 2x All Decade team member, personifies the meaning of team player. Peppers had over 700 tackles, 51 forced fumbles, 11 interceptions and ranks 4th all-time in sacks. Julius is the franchise’s all-time sack leader.
1. Cam Newton
The obvious choice here and the first ever player to wear a Panthers uniform bringing home the league’s MVP; Cam Newton helped mold the franchise and bring relevancy to a city that’s known just as a banking capital. Some of his accolades include MVP, ’15 Offensive POY, ROY, 3x Pro-bowler and First Team All-Pro. Cam is still adding to his rushing TD’s record held by a quarterback (70), which is currently the most all-time by someone at the position. Cam has thrown for over 31,000 yards, including 190 passing touchdowns, and rushed for over 5,000 yards – making him one of the most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks of all time. No player ever will have the type of impact on the Panthers’ organization as Cam has….EVER