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Former Carolina Panthers players nominated for Hall of Fame

Players that excelled at offense, defense, and special teams over the years for the Carolina Panthers could be enshrined among the greatest in NFL history.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Multiple former NFL players who spent time with the Carolina Panthers have been nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2023.

On Tuesday, the hall of fame announced its modern-era player nominations for the 2023 class. The list includes 129 players who have played within the last 25 NFL seasons.

Among the list are six players who spent time as a member of the Carolina Panthers. Each of these players made a vital impact to the Panthers during their time on the team.

Steve Smith Sr.

Credit: AP
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (89) reacts during player introductions prior to an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Charlotte, NC Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

As the Panthers all-time leader in receiving yards, receptions, touchdowns, and return touchdowns, Steve Smith Sr. is the most likely nominated Panther to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023.

Smith was a third-round draft pick for the Panthers in 2001. He got his career off to an immense start when he took the opening kickoff of the Panthers 2001 NFL Season for a 93-yard touchdown. The team would finish 1-15 that year but Smith proved to be a lone bright spot on the squad as he was selected for the Pro Bowl as a kick returner.

His dominance as a kick returner continued in 2002 when he churned out one of his most memorable performances against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14 when he returned two punts for touchdowns and caught 5 passes for 144 yards as Carolina won 52-31, the highest scoring performance in team history.

In 2003, Smith was a major factor in getting the Panthers to their first Super Bowl appearance when he caught 88 passes for 1110 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Smith caught a 39-yard touchdown pass in Super Bowl XXXVIII that tied the game in the 2nd Quarter. 

Smith solidified himself as an elite receiver in 2005 when he led the league in receptions (103), receiving yards (1,563), and receiving touchdowns (12). That year, he was named an all-pro player.

Smith had seven seasons in Carolina with over 1,000 receiving yards and caught 67 touchdowns, a team record. He played for the Panthers from 2001 to 2013.

Following his tenure with the Panthers, Smith played three solid seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. 

In addition to being a great receiver, Smith was known for his bombastic personality on the field that often included him fighting verbally and sometimes physically with defensive players on other teams. 

Off the field, Smith has contributed to several philanthropic affairs such as helping out the homeless and donating money to fund education endeavors.

Jake Delhomme 

Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme (17) is shown during an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

The quarterback who delivered most of Smith's career receptions is Jake Delhomme. 

During Delhomme's seven years in Carolina, he helped turn the Panthers into a legitimate franchise that could compete for a spot in the postseason year in and year out.

Delhomme had to crawl up the ranks of the NFL after going undrafted in the 1997 NFL Draft and only making it to the New Orleans Saints practice squad. He spent time in NFL Europe before finally getting a shot on an NFL roster with the Saints in 1999 but remained in a backup role for several years. 

In 2003, Delhomme was picked up by the Panthers in the hopes he could compete for the starting job. He took over for Rodney Peete after the first half of the season's opening game and never relinquished the role.

The Panthers went on to finish 11-5 and made it to Super Bowl XXXVIII under Delhomme's guidance. Carolina lost that game 32-29 but Delhomme had a good game, passing for 323 yards and three touchdowns to cap off his first year as a starter.

Delhomme would not play in another Super Bowl but he would remain a respectable starter during his time with the Panthers. 

His best season statistically came in 2004 when he threw for 3800 yards and tossed 29 touchdowns. Delhomme's lone Pro Bowl selection came in 2005 when he put up similar numbers.

Delhomme led the team to one last playoff performance in 2008 off of a 12-4 record that was ultimately short-lived as the Panthers lost to the Arizona Cardinals in the divisional round.

His production fell off in 2009 and the Panthers decided to move on from Delhomme. He left as the team's all-time leading passer in practically every category. 

Delhomme spent two more seasons in the league with the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans but failed to duplicate the success he had in Carolina.

Delhomme was named to the Panthers Hall of Honor in 2019.

Jordan Gross

Credit: AP
FILe - In this Dec. 1, 2013 file photo, Carolina Panthers tackle Jordan Gross (69) runs onto the field during player introductions prior to an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Charlotte, N.C. The Panthers say that Gross will announce his retirement at a news conference on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn, File)

Coming into the 2003 NFL season, Jordan Gross was the highest regarded rookie offensive lineman. 

The Panthers selected Gross with the 8th pick in the 2003 NFL draft and gained a franchise-great tackle. Gross started every game in his first five seasons in the league and anchored an offensive line that opened lanes for runningbacks like Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster. 

Gross was an all-pro selection in 2008 and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2010 and 2013.

Gross was selected to the Panthers Hall of Honor in 2019.

Muhsin Muhammed 

mushin-muhammad

Before there was Steve Smith, Muhsin Muhammed was the Panthers' top receiver and he made his presence felt just about every time he caught the ball.

Muhammed was drafted by Carolina in the 1996 NFL Draft and slowly but surely became the team's number one receiving target.

In 1999, Muhammed was named to the Pro Bowl after catching 96 passes for over 1200 yards and eight touchdowns. 

He provided a great counterpart to Smtih once he came on board. During the team's 2003 Super Bowl appearance, Muhhamed scored on a 75-yard touchdown pass, the longest one in Super Bowl history.

Muhammed's best season came the following year when he caught 93 passes for a league-high 1405 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was named to the all-pro team that season.

After that season, Muhammed left Carolina and spent three solid years with the Chicago Bears before returning to the Panthers in 2008.

Muhammed spent his last two seasons with the Panthers and finished with 860 receptions and over 11,000 yards. 

Like Smith, Muhammed is known for his charity work off the field. He has a foundation dedicated to improving the mental and physical well-being of children.

John Kasay

Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Carolina Panthers' John Kasay (4) watches his field goal attempt against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

One of the original Carolina Panthers could find their way into the Hall of Fame.

John Kasay was the only full-time kicker the Carolina Panthers knew for the first 15 years of their existence.

Kasay spent a respectable four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks from 1991 to 1994 and left the team as the most accurate kicker in the team's history.

Following that stint, Kasay signed with the Carolina Panthers in 1995 to join them in their first year of existence.

Kasay established himself as a reliable kicker for the Panthers early on, making game-winning field goals in 1995 against the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts.

The following year, Kasay led the league in successful field goals (37) and was named to his only Pro Bowl appearance.

Kasay spent almost the entirety of the rest of his career with the Panthers as he established himself as a clutch kicker who could get the job done when the team needed it most. After leaving the Panthers in 2010, he spent one season with the New Orleans Saints. 

The Panthers signed Kasay to a one-day contract in 2013 so that he could retire as a member of the team.

RELATED: Panthers fall to the Giants 19-16

Charles Tilman

Credit: AP
Carolina Panthers cornerback Charles Tillman (31) celebrates a turnover against the Green Bay Packers during an NFL game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. (Chris Keane/AP Images for Panini)

Although he only spent one season with the Panthers, Charles Tillman made the most of it.

Tillman played the first 12 years of his career with the Chicago Bears, making two Pro Bowls and earning one All-Pro selection. He amassed 36 interceptions during this time and was a key player on the effective Bears defenses of the 2000s.

After his time with the Bears, Tillman signed a one-year contract with the Panthers in 2015. During that season, he contributed to the defense that secured the Panthers a 15-1 record and elevated them to reach Super Bowl 50.

Tillman recorded two interceptions with the Panthers in 2015 and contributed to 55 tackles.

Tillman was sideline with an injury late in the season and did not get to play in the postseason, but was still a key player on helping the Panthers be one of the top teams of the 2015 NFL season.

Next steps 

It remains to be seen as to which players will move on from the nominations list. In November, the list will be cut to 25 players before being cut to 15 players in January. From there, five players will be chosen to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

To see the full list of nominees, visit here.

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