Ranking the 8 most influential Carolina Panthers in franchise history

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Steve Smith
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Steve Smith /
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Carolina Panthers
(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) Kevin Greene /

player. 87. . DE/OLB. Carolina Panthers. KEVIN GREENE. 6

Kevin Greene – Former Carolina Panthers DE/OLB

The Carolina Panthers were trying to find an identity as an expansion team with almost no real expectations on their shoulders in 1996.

Kevin Greene changed all that in an instant.

Getting such a dominant pass-rusher who was supposedly past the peak of his powers was seen as a real coup by the organization. It did not take long for the fiery linebacker to completely legitimize everything good the Panthers were trying to accomplish.

Greene was an absolute wrecking ball for a defense who took the league by storm that season. He notched 14.5 sacks, earned All-Pro honors, finished second in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting, and provided a ragtag team with leadership and a sense of purpose that was nothing short of a fairytale.

Even though the Panthers fell agonizingly short of a Super Bowl against the New England Patriots, it was a phenomenal effort led by Greene and one of the meanest defenses Carolina has ever produced. He did leave briefly before returning for the final two seasons of his pro career, securing 27 sacks during this span before finally calling it a day.

Others played in Carolina for longer. But few had the sort of impact and influence Greene managed to accomplish.