Sam Mills Enshrined in College Football Hall of Fame

Montclair, NJ (7/20/09) – He is the greatest football player that Montclair State has ever produced. And now Sam Mills resides among the greatest the sport of college football has ever seen.

Mills, the two-time All-America linebacker for the then-Indians during the late 1970s, took his rightful place in the College Football Hall of Fame during its Enshrinement Festival July 17-18 in South Bend, Indiana.

Mills’ son, Sam III (pictured in the middle above), accepted the induction award for his father, who passed away in April 2005 following a 20-month battle with cancer. Also in attendance were Mills’ wife Melanie, his son Marcus and two daughters Larissa and Sierra.

(Click Here for Photos / Mills Enshrinement Highlight Film)

Also enshrined in the 2009 class were former UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman, former Oklahoma State tailback Thurman Thomas, former Florida linebacker Wilber Marshall, former Ohio State, Arizona State and Tulsa coach John Cooper and Lou Holtz, who coached at Notre Dame, South Carolina, Minnesota, Arkansas, North Carolina State and William & Mary.  Former Syracuse quarterback Don McPherson, as was 1959 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon of LSU.

Of the more than five million players who have played collegiate football since its beginning in 1869, only 1,000 have been enshrined into the Hall of Fame (.02 percent). Mills is the 25th player from a New Jersey institution to be selected for induction to the College Football Hall of Fame and the first since Princeton fullback Cosmo Iacavazzi in 2002.

Mills was a standout at Division III Montclair from 1977-80, being named captain his final two seasons and a Kodak All-American selection as a senior. His 501 career tackles set a school record, his 142 tackles as a sophomore set the school's single-season mark and his 22-tackle performance as a junior established a single-game record. He was a three-time defensive player of the year selection by the New Jersey Collegiate Football Writers Association.

Mills' No. 62 was retired by Montclair State in 1981, one of two numbers in MSU history to be retired.

Deemed "too small" to play linebacker in the pros, the 5'9" Mills went on to an outstanding career which began in the United States Football League (USFL) with the Philadelphia Stars. He then moved on to the National Football League (NFL) where he became an All-Pro with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers.

In 1997, Mills finished his Carolina playing career having not missed a start in 50 games, including the playoffs, and leading the team in tackles two of his three seasons. His Panthers career was distinguished by two of the biggest plays in team history.

His 36-yard interception return for a touchdown versus the Jets in 1995 triggered the first victory in team history and was a turning point in the team's record-setting inaugural season. The following year, his interception versus Dallas in the 1996 divisional playoffs sealed the first postseason win in franchise history. In recognition of his contributions, Mills became the first former player and the second member of the Panthers Hall of Honor.

He has also been elected to Halls of Fame for the Saints and the states of Louisiana and New Jersey.

Overall, Mills played 12 seasons in the NFL and recorded 1,319 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 11 interceptions and four touchdowns while starting 173 of 181 games. He played the first nine seasons of his career with the Saints and was a five-time Pro Bowl selection, making the trip as a Panther in 1996. He was also a three-time All-USFL selection and helped the Stars to league titles in 1983 and 1984.

After his playing career, Mills became an assistant coach with the Panthers and was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. Still, Mills coached Carolina throughout the season and became the team's inspiration as the Panthers won the NFC Championship and went on to play in Super Bowl XXXVII against the New England Patriots.

In 2002, Mills was one of several players nominated to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Panthers honored him with a statue that stands outside of Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

 Mills graduated from Long Branch High School and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial technology from Montclair State, and was inducted as a member of the MSU Hall of Fame in 1992. He was awarded an honorary doctoral degree at Montclair State University commencement ceremonies in 1998.