4 most beloved players in Carolina Panthers franchise history

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Mills
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Mills /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) Steve Smith /

Steve Smith Sr. – Former Carolina Panthers WR

Depending on who you ask, Steve Smith Sr. is the greatest player in Carolina Panthers franchise history, and he’s certainly amongst the favorites by all.

Smith spent his first 13 years in Carolina and won the hearts of fans throughout his tenure as the team’s best and most consistent player. A two-time first-team All-Pro selection and the NFL’s last Triple Crown winner before Cooper Kupp in 2021, the former Utah star gave everything he had for the Panthers during his career, including a Super Bowl run during the memorable 2003 season.

His fiery competitiveness was revered across the league, and Smith played the position bigger than anyone his size, ever. Agent 89 was an absolute dog on the field and is the benchmark for all future Panthers wide receivers.

Smith ended his career in Carolina as the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions, all-purpose yards, receiving yards, punt return yards, and touchdowns. He ranks No. 8 all-time in receiving yards and No. 12 all-time in receptions in NFL history.

It is a cruel travesty that Smith has been overlooked for the Pro Football Hall of Fame two years in a row. However, this distinction is sure to arrive at some stage – perhaps even next year when Julius Peppers is also eligible for induction.

If both Smith and Peppers were enshrined in the same year, it will be an emotional occasion for every Panthers fan. That’s how much both meant to the organization.