Tuesday, April 3, 2012
A photo of the "new" Panther uniform, modeled by DeAngelo Williams and taken from the Nike Football Facebook page. The words "Keep Pounding" will now be sewn into the collar of each Panther uniform.
You won't see it from the sideline. You won't see it on your HDTV. But you will know it is there, and that's what matters.
As we already knew, the Panthers' uniforms this season are basically not changing (see the picture above of DeAngelo Williams modeling the "new" Nike version of the uniform, which pretty much looks like the old Reebok version).
But there is one significant change -- the addition of the words "Keep Pounding," which are sewn into the jersey near the collar where the tag is. (The Panthers' official Twitter feed, @Panthers, first tweeted this news).
Putting those words into the jersey was a brilliant idea (Nike's marketing folks came up with it) and means that the legacy of the late Sam Mills will be woven into every Panther jersey from now on. Mills, who died of cancer in 2005, was a Panther linebacker, assistant coach and the truest gentleman the team has ever employed. He coached throughout the 2003 Super Bowl season despite regularly going to chemotherapy treatments and he made a famous speech in the locker room the night before the home playoff win over Dallas following the 2003 season.
At that point, everyone in the locker room knew Mills was battling cancer, but few had heard him describe that battle in much detail. Mills told the players in that speech (later described by many of them as the best pregame speech they had ever heard):
"When I found out I had cancer, there were two things I could do -- quit or keep pounding. I'm a fighter. I kept pounding. You're fighters, too. Keep pounding."
Those words were eventually adopted by former Panther linebacker Mark Fields as well, who had his own cancer battle to fight. The two ended up doing a lot of good in the Carolinas raising money and awareness. (Fields, incidentally, is still alive but had to retire from the NFL due to cancer-related problems. At one point he was living in Arizona and had some legal issues -- he has declined numerous requests over the years from The Observer to interview him since he left Charlotte).
But to me, those words will forever be identified with Mills and that speech. So while the Panther uniforms technically haven't changed much at all, this symbolic change was just what the players needed to see as they pulled on their game jerseys every Sunday.