NFL draft history: Remembering 4/21 for the Carolina Panthers

Ronald Martinez

Before Luke Kuechly, he was the best.

"Just another Monday," that's how we'll remember 4/21/14. It wasn't always this way. Back when the NFL wasn't trying to milk the draft for an extra month we'd be preparing for the first pick and waiting to hear "The Carolina Panthers are on the clock." Instead of waxing poetically about how a May draft is wholly frustrating, let's look back to 2001 when the team made their first round pick on Apr. 21.

With the 11th pick in the 2001 NFL, the Carolina Panthers select... Dan Morgan, linebacker, Miami

The 2001 draft was amazing in how successful the first round was. A team really had to try to find a bad player, with 17 players taken in the first appearing in at least one Pro Bowl after being selected. A majority of the rest were still solid role players, without too many legitimate busts.

Morgan will be forever remembered as a pick that was "what should have been." He's 35-years old now and at this point we probably would be talking about the seemless transition from Morgan to Luke Kuechly that should have occurred naturally, but it wasn't to be.

Concussions and injuries marred Morgan's career, forcing him to retire in 2009. It was maddening from a Panthers' perspective only because he was so friggin' good when he was actually on the field. There's little doubt that if he could stay healthy fans around the league would hold him in the same regard are Brian Urlacher, but it wasn't to be.

While he never managed to play a full 16 game season his 2004 year was something to remember. Morgan asserted himself in the Super Bowl and put forth a performance worthy of the MVP, then followed it up with his best year. Appearing in just 12 games he totaled 101 tackles, 2.0 sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble.

What made him fun was his play style. Too many have compared him to Kuechly, which is wrong. Morgan never had the pre-snap recognition of the current All Pro and he wasn't a quick, but he played with a reckless abandon that makes football fun (if you don't think about post-concussion issues). Morgan would throw himself at the ball carrier, headfirst and hard. He was an old school football player in an era where most guys were trying to preserve their bodies.

When I think of Morgan I best remember his 25 tackles in the Super Bowl. It became a drinking game mid-contest. It felt like every single defensive snap you heard his name. In fact, the Patriots recorded 67 completions or rushing attempts, which means Morgan was involved in 37-percent of plays. That's ridiculous.

Do you have a favorite Dan Morgan moment?

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