If there was one person who was symbolic of what the USFL stood for -- it was Sam Mills.
Mills, at 5-feet-9inches, was considered too short for the NFL.
Teams didn’t have room on their roster for a linebacker that was a few books shy of six-feet tall.
But height doesn't measure a man's heart.
Today, Mills is so revered as a person and player, that the Carolina Panthers have a statue of him outside the stadium and continue to impress upon their young players the Mills way.
Dave Lapham, who blocked against the Steel Curtain twice a year as a member of the Bengals, says, “Sam Mills, like Flutie was short, but he was 225 lbs, with a size 14 shoe, and you couldn’t knock him off his feet. You couldn’t get under his shoulders pads. You had to come off the line of scrimmage on your knee-caps to try and get leverage; football is all about leverage. Sam proved he could separate from blocks and make big plays.”
Mills went to five Pro Bowls as a member of the Saints, leading the organization to the playoffs four times in his nine years in New Orleans, and once with the Panthers.
Offensive lineman Irv Eatman, who was a teammate of Mills with the Stars during their three USFL Championship appearances, says “Sam Mills was one of the best players I've been around - period! No asterisk what whatsoever. ”
Mills, along with teammates Pat Swilling, Rickey Jackson and former Jacksonville Bulls' linebacker Vaughan Johnson, became known as the Dome Patrol of the New Orleans defense.
The trio knocked around opposing running backs from 1986 through 1992 and was ranked by the NFL Network as No.1 linebacking corps of all time.