Carolina Panthers’ all-time Mount Rushmore: 4 best players in franchise history

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Steve Smith is arguably the best wide receiver to put on a Panthers


The Carolina Panthers, one of the youngest teams in the NFL, quickly climbed to the top to become a fierce competitor — not only in the NFC South, but league-wide.

After several years of bidding and planning, the Panthers were awarded the 29th NFL franchise in 1993. Carolina wasted no time making a name for itself, setting the record for most wins by an expansion team in its 1995 inaugural season after going 7-9. They advanced to the NFC championship game the following season after winning the NFC Western division with a 12-4 record.

Since its birth, Carolina has won six division championships, two conference titles and has made two Super Bowl appearances.

But who would make a Mount Rushmore of Panthers players? Take a look at the list below.

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STEVE SMITH SR.

Steve Smith is arguably the best wide receiver to put on a Panthers’ jersey. (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)

Arguably one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, Steve Smith Sr.’s 13 seasons with the Panthers solidifies his place at the top of the list.

A late-round pick in the 2001 draft, Smith quickly made a name for himself, becoming the NFL leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in 2005.

Smith made five Pro Bowls and holds the franchise record for total touchdowns (67), receptions (836) and receiving yards (12,197).

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CAM NEWTON

Carolina Panthers drafted Cam Newton No. 1 in 2011. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Carolina Panthers drafted Cam Newton No. 1 in 2011. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

It’s hard to believe that NFL’s 2015 MVP, who led his team to the franchise’s second Super Bowl appearance after going 15-1 in the regular season, was released just five years later and is currently a free agent well into the 2020 offseason.

Regardless, Cam Newton easily makes the Panthers top four players of all time.

The 2010 Heisman Trophy winner was selected No. 1 overall in the 2011 draft by then-owner Jerry Richardson. In his first professional game, Newton wowed after becoming the first rookie quarterback to throw for over 400 yards in a game. He was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year and was selected for the Pro Bowl that same season.

The three-time Pro Bowler made several NFL firsts before constant injuries led to his eventual departure from the Panthers in 2020.

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LUKE KUECHLY

Luke Kuchly retired after the 2019 season. (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

Luke Kuchly retired after the 2019 season. (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

Luke Kuechly dominated throughout his nine-year career with the Panthers after getting drafted No. 9 overall in the 2012 draft.

He wowed his rookie season after leading the NFL in tackles with a career-high of 164, earning the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award. The following season he was named NFL Defensive Player of the year.

Keuchly made seven Pro Bowls, was named First-team All-Pro five times and Second-team All-Pro twice.

JULIUS PEPPERS 

A nine-time Pro Bowler, three-time First-team All-Pro and three-time Second-team All-Pro, Peppers still holds several franchise records. (Getty Images)

A nine-time Pro Bowler, three-time First-team All-Pro and three-time Second-team All-Pro, Peppers still holds several franchise records. (Getty Images)

Despite playing for three different NFL teams, Julius Peppers played some of his best football in Carolina.

The unanimous All-American out of UNC was drafted No. 2 overall in the 2002 draft. He was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after registering 28 tackles, 12 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and 1 interception.

A nine-time Pro Bowler, three-time First-team All-Pro and three-time Second-team All-Pro, Peppers still holds several franchise records.



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