R.I.P Sam Mills

I am a Saints fan. I have been a fan of New Orleans' sometimes (mostly) hapless football team since junior high. There are a few reasons why I ended up cheering for a team that has won one playoff game in their entire existence, but Sam Mills is one of the main ones. When I started watching football, the Saints had a fearsome defence nicknamed the Dome Patrol, and it was led by four pro-bowl caliber linebackers: Rickey Jackson, Vaughn Johnson, Pat Swilling, and Sam Mills. Swilling was my favorite, but Mills wasn't far behind. He was a main ingredient of the defence that got me hooked on the Saints, so I was saddened to hear of his passing yesterday after a 2 year battle with intestinal cancer.

Unless you've been a football fan for awhile, it's likely you hadn't heard of Sam Mills. That's why I thought I should post about his death, to spread the word about a guy who was a great player, and a great guy.

Sam Mills was 5'9 and played middle linebacker in the NFL. Didn't just play there, he went to 5 Pro Bowls in a 12 year career. I won't try and explain how tough a feat that is, let's just say it's mighty impressive. He was a guy who played Division 3 football and couldn't stick with an NFL or even CFL team after college. But he wouldn't quit on his dream of playing pro football and soon made a name for himself in the USFL. He was brought to the Saints by Jim Mora, who coached him in the USFL, and he would stay for 9 years. He made the Pro Bowl 4 times as a Saint and was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. He left a great impression with the Saints, and in reading articles about him the last two days, I have to read anything but people talking about how much heart he had as a player and what a great guy he was.

But I think one of the most telling stories about the kind of guy Mills was is the fact that Sam played for the Carolina Panthers for 3 years at the end of his career, and after he retired the Panthers put a statue of him in front of their stadium and inducted him as the sole player in their ring of honour. He had such an impact on their franchise in such a short time, that they honored him in a way that even most star players would never see.

One of Sam Mills' nicknames was the Field Mouse, but he certainly didn't play like one. He was a fierce hitter, no just for a man who stood 5'9, but for any NFL linebacker (check the Eric Dickerson story in the article linked above). So here's to you Sam. Even though I've suffered through many awful seasons as a Saints fan since you helped bring me on board, I'm glad I was able to watch you play.

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