Olindo Mare met with the media Saturday in Spartanburg and was impressive. He is slated to replace kicker John Kasay, the Panther fan favorite who was the last remaining original Panther from the original 1995 team.
Mare said he wasn't going to try and replace exactly what Kasay was in the community and with fans, just that he wanted to be himself and do what he has done in his own career. Like Kasay, 41, the 38-year-old Mare has been around the NFL block numerous times. He was hired because his leg strength is better than Kasay's and he can boom kickoffs into the end zone -- Kasay was still an extremely accurate kicker, but had not kicked off for the Panthers for the past three years.
Mare had 20 touchbacks on kickoffs last season. With the NFL moving kickoffs up to the 35 rather than the 30 this season, he said he hoped to "double" that to 40. He also predicted that the amount of touchbacks would go way up throughout the league, especially in domed stadiums, and said he understood that many fans may be frustrated because the kickoff return will be minimized as an impact play.
"And I think that's one of the most exciting plays in football," Mare said. The NFL made the change realizing that, but since kickoff returns also include a number of full-fledged collisions, moved the kickoff back to the 35 in the name of player safety.
One thing I didn't know about Mare: Oddly enough, he has lived in Mooresville for about the past five years. He's from Miami, his wife is from New York and they picked Mooresville as a place that was in between the two. So he doesn't have to buy a house in the Charlotte area with the $4-million signing bonus he received -- Mare already has one.
More on Mare in Sunday's Charlotte Observer and online.