Sam Mills, who died of cancer in 2005 at the age of 45, was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. His widow, Melanie Mills, presented him.
“There can be no better place for him to rest than in the Hall of Fame,” Melanie Mills said.
Mills played in 181 games between the Saints and Panthers, tallying 1,265 total tackles, 23 fumble recoveries, 22 forced fumbles, 20.5 sacks and 11 interceptions. He also was part of the first four playoff teams in Saints history and the first in Panthers history.
He overcame the stigma he was too short at 5 foot 9 and 229 pounds. Major colleges didn’t recruit him, so he played at Division III Montclair State. The Browns signed him as an undrafted free agent in 1981 and then cut him, as did the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts in 1982.
It wasn’t until the USFL gave him a chance that he proved he was big enough, strong enough and good enough to play professional football.
“Sam Mills’ story is a story of a man told he was not good enough to play college football,” Melanie Mills said. “Then, he wasn’t big enough to play professional football. At the age of 27 (when he joined the NFL from the USFL), he wasn’t young enough for the NFL. Yet, here we are today celebrating.
“That’s because Sam worked harder than his peers. It took everything he had. He became legendary, but he never forgot he was just a man.”