photo from the Charlotte Observer
I've been a Panthers fan since we got the franchise, and while I'm far from the most rabid fan, I support my team. But I've only in my life ever bought one NFL jersey. It's not really my thing, throwing a ton of money into the pockets of millionaires and a billionaire league. But I found a player once that I could stand behind on and off the field, a too-short, too-slow safety who wasn't supposed to play good, sometimes great football for 10 years for one team.
He was supposed to be an okay player, a 2nd-round draft pick who might live up to his potential, but probably not. A journeyman type who might get picked up for a couple years here, a couple years there. He wasn't supposed to retire as the team's all-time leader in tackles and interceptions returned for touchdowns. He wasn't supposed to become one of the most-beloved figures in Charlotte sports.
But he did. And yesterday, because after 10 years of running faster on the field than he ever could on the track his knees couldn't go any further, he retired. He left before he could be benched, before he could make a mockery out of a career that will never go down in any record books, but is an inspiration nonetheless.
Mike Minter has been the captain of the Carolina Panthers defense for five years, and a pillar of Charlotte society for longer. He's a lay minister, a solid businessman locally, and the kind of upstanding citizen that Roger Goodell wishes there were a couple hundred more of in the NFL. Now he'll stay in Charlotte and concentrate on his family, his ministry and his businesses. And hopefully, in a year or so, he'll stand outside of the stadium in bronze, alongside Sam Mills, another guy who was never supposed to be as good as he was.
And I'll wear my #30 white Panthers jersey with as much pride now as I ever have.