The Carolina Panthers have confirmed today that they have released veteran fullback Brad Hoover, one of the team's most well-liked citizens and a heckuva blocking back for the past 10 years.
The "Hoov" had one of the great Panther names in history -- it was so easy to yell "Hoooooooooov!" whenever he got one of his rare carries or ran over somebody on a short pass for a first down. The Western Carolina product and Thomasville native was an undrafted rookie free agent a decade ago and made a great career for himself. Stop me if you've heard this before, though: The Panthers are going to go younger and cheaper at the position.
Panther coach John Fox said last week that football "was a young man's game," and the team seems to have taken that message to heart. They remind me of that old 1960s adage "Never trust anyone over 30" -- the Panthers barely have a player over 30 on the roster anymore.
I will always remember Hoover, 33, for that "Monday Night Football" performance against Green Bay in 2000. As a rookie pressed into duty as a feature back, he rushed for 117 yards in 24 carries on "MNF" and scored a TD. It was a great moment, and for 10 years those 117 yards remained his career high.
Far more often, Hoover did the dirty work -- the "running-into-a-garage-door" 40 times a day that is required of most NFL fullbacks. It's no coincidence that Stephen Davis, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart all had 1,000-yard rushing seasons with Hoover road-grading the way.
I'll miss the "Hoov," and I bet you will, too. He was one of those players who really didn't inspire a pro and con side, like Jake Delhomme and Julius Peppers did.
Hoov was just Hoov. I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone say an unkind word about him, and I'm not about to start now.
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