New Orleans Saints: Ranking the five best linebackers in team history
At 5-foot-9, Mills was considered too small to be an effective linebacker in the NFL. He had become an absolute star in the USFL, but that was backyard football compared to the hard-hitting reality Mills stepped into when he joined Jim Mora in New Orleans.
The brains behind the Dome Patrol’s brawn, Mills’ greatest talent, perhaps, was his mind.
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In Mills, the Saints had, for the very first time, a defensive signal-caller with an eye and a gut for a play. Mills was particularly gifted with the sixth sense to know where the ball was going before it went there.
He made a habit of leading the team in tackles and recorded over 100 tackles in five separate seasons.
Mills finished out his playing career in Carolina. He was diagnosed with intestinal cancer while serving as the Panther’s linebacker coach, though he still was considered an integral voice in the Panther’s Super Bowl XXXVIII run.
He was initially given only months to live but was able to keep pounding for almost two years, finally succumbing to his disease in April of 2005.
Mills never let any weakness or flaw throw him off the path towards achievement, and his ability to stand up in the face of adversity has only added to New Orleans’ longstanding underdog reputation; for that, he deserves immortality.