As Memorial Day comes to a close, I would like to personally thank all of our Veterans who have given up so much to provide us with the freedoms we have here in the United States. Every one of America's armed forces come together every day to form the absolute best Special Teams Unit in the world, and I am so proud to live among these brave men and women. These heroes deserve to be honored in the highest way and their sacrifices should never be taken for granted or forgotten.
Before I type another word, let me be sure to emphasize that this post is in no way an attempt to compare the value of Panthers special teamers with the value past and present members of our esteemed military. With that being said, let's take a look at my latest all time Panthers top ten list. As always, I'm sure there's a guy or two that I may have left out that deserves more consideration in your eyes. I will freely admit that putting together this top ten was a very challenging task because of how difficult it was for me to find certain special teams stats. Let me know what you think in the poll and the comment section that follows.
Quick Note: I originally had Jarrod Cooper and Vinny Ciurciu in my top ten, but, upon further review, I replaced them with Dante Wesley and Nick Goings.
10. Dante Wesley
Although Wesley is infamously known as the guy that put a vicious hit on punt returner Clifton Smith in 2009, he was a solid cornerback and special teamer during his two separate stints with the Panthers(2002-2005/2007-2009)
9. Kemp Rasmussen
In his four years as a Panther, Rasmussen respectively compiled 8, 17, 9, and 19 special teams tackles from 2002-2005. It is interesting to note that Rasmussen is a firefighter for the city of Charlotte. These guys are heroes too.
8. Nick Goings
Although Goings overachieved when he was given opportunities as a running back, he spent most of his time on special teams. In fact, he finished his career as the Panthers 5th leading special teams tackler(53)of all time.
7. Rod Smart
A.K.A "He Hate Me", Smart found some success with the Panthers from 2002-2005 both as a kick returner and a special teams standout. The highlights of his short NFL career was when he posted an astounding 24 special teams tackles in 2002 and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in 2003. Smart still lives in Charlotte today and is a counselor at an area high school.
6. Richard Marshall
Did you know that before Marshall took over the #2 corner spot, he was a special teams ace? Over a four year period from 2006-2009, he amassed a total of 57 special teams tackles, 22 of which were made in 2008.
5. Karl Hankton
The Panthers all-time special teams total tackle record(62) belongs to Hankton. One of the highlights of his seven year career with the Panthers was captaining the Panthers team that led the NFL in the kickoff return average in 2002. He also blocked at punt in that same year.
4. Todd Sauerbrun
The 'Brun' was a 3 time Pro Bowl and All Pro punter from 2001-2003. During that same span, 'Brun' became the first punter since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to lead the league in gross punting average for 3 consecutive seasons.
3. John Kasay
I couldn't put Kasay any higher than this spot because of how I felt about the two players in front of him. Otherwise, he was consistently good over the course of his long stint here in Carolina, and, minus his Super Bowl gaffe, Kasay was about as clutch as they come.
2. Steve Smith
As good as Smitty is at the receiver position, It's almost easy to forget that he was one of the better returners in the NFL during his first two seasons. During that span, he returned three punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns. Smith also added another punt return for a touchdown in his third season despite a reduced special teams role. His last touchdown as a punt returner came in the Panther's disappointing loss to the Seahawks in the 2006 playoffs. Smitty would have most likely passed my #1 special teamer of all time had he not become the dominant receiver he is today.
1. Michael Bates
Bates was one of those rare athletes who could translate their world class speed into a productive NFL Career. But, he wasn't just any above average kick returner. He was simply electric with the ball in his hands. Not only was Bates a five time Pro Bowler and All Pro in each of his five seasons with the Panthers, but he was also voted into the NFL's 1990's All Decade Team. In my mind, Bates was/is the clear choice for the #1 spot, unless someone convinces me otherwise.