There was a recent article that ranked Julius Peppers as the greatest Panther player in their short history. Peppers was one of the best, but there are a few names that could be mentioned in that breath.
Since the Julius Peppers saga was a two-year drama that rivaled reality TV, and the fact that he only played eight years in Carolina, Peppers is removed from the conversation for me. At this point, it comes down to Gross and Smith, with Kasay a distant third as G.O.A.T.
Sam Mills and Mike McCormack already welcome Panther fans at the front of Bank of America Stadium, so there’s already a high standard of who gets this prestigious award. Steve Smith, gave the Panthers a face and attitude to their offense. He always played with a chip on his shoulder as if everyone was telling him that he couldn’t succeed in the NFL.
Smith was the receiver on the greatest play in Carolina Panthers’ team history, or as fans simply remember it, X-Clown. That 69-yard touchdown in double-OT propelled the Panthers on to the eventual Super Bowl, one game later. Memories of this game give me instant goosebumps.
Smitty had many great years in Charlotte and was considered one of the elite receivers in the league for several years. He had ups-n-downs amongst teammates and was a very polarizing figure. His departure this past offseason stung a lot of fans, but change is a good thing. It doesn’t overshadow all of the incredible years he had as a Panther.
Smith’s best year arguably came in 2005 when he won the leagues’ Triple Crown by leading the NFL in receiving yards (1,563), receptions (103) and touchdowns (12). He was a leader in the locker room for awhile and the kind of teammate that kept his team in check. Smith never backed down and his approach to the game was infectious amongst teammates.
No doubt, Smith’s attitude and approach to the game was a double-edged sword, but he helped put the Panthers on the NFL map. Looking at the big picture and body of work that he compiled during his thirteen years in Charlotte, Smith is one of the greatest.
His passion for the game and ego is present in all of the greatest receivers that preceded him. Often on teams that underachieved, Smitty always rose to the occasion. Playing larger than his 5-foot-9-inch frame, Smith is worthy of being mentioned as the greatest-of-all-time to pull on the silver helmet of the Carolina Panthers. Though it won’t happen anytime soon, at some point Steve Smith deserves a statue outside of Bank of America Stadium.
Now Cat Crave Nation, do you think he is worthy of having a statue erected at “The Bank”? Sound off and let us know what you think.