By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr
June 2, 2016, the Long Branch Public Schools held their annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The honorees for the Athletic Hall of Fame; Lester Taylor, Honorable Lisa Thornton, Kellie Bland-Ledet and Francisco Rodriguez, current principal of the Amerigo A. Anastasia Elementary School.
The Athletic Hall of Fame inductees; Berkley Hutchinson, Jackie Levy Williams, Wesley Mayo, Jr., and the Honorable Philip Huhn.
The district also unveiled a new plaque at the Bressett Stadium on the campus of the High School. Just off the Melvin T. Rahn Oval and near the “Army” Ippolito Football Field is a remembrance for the late Sam Mills, Class of 1977.
Mills played four years of football for the Green Wave and then played at Montclair State University. After college he played a short time in the USFL for the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars. He was then picked to play for the New Orleans Saints and finished his career with the Carolina Panthers.
He played 12 years of professional football and recorded 1,319 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 11 interceptions and had four touchdowns. Mills started 173 of 181 professional games and was named to the NFL All-Pro team three times; 1991, 1992 and 1996.
Mills was elected to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey in 2003 and the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame in 1998. After he retired from his playing career, the Carolina Panthers inducted him into their Hall of Fame. He was also hired as a defensive coach by the team.
August 2003, Mills received news that he gad intestinal cancer and was told he had only a short time to live. He gave a speech to the Panthers, saying that he would “keep pounding” in regard to battle with cancer. Mills coached the entire 2004 season, but passed away on August 18, 2005.
“Our students as they take the field will now pass that plaque with his message of keep pounding,” said Dr. Michael Salvatore, Long Branch Superintendent of Schools. Salvatore spoke of that inspirational speech that Mills gave. “He wanted everyone to know that you should never quit, never give in. You can succeed if you ‘Keep Pounding’ keep going. That quote by Sam is now embroidered in ever uniform jersey of a Panther player. And during the last Super Bowl in which Carolina won, they showcased Sam and that’s right he was from here, Long Branch. So never give up on your dreams.”
The Panthers retired his number 51 and the Long Branch Public Schools also retired his high school number. In 2009, the College Football Hall of Fame inducted him into their prestigious program.