Best Saints By The Numbers: #51
All summer long, we’re going to list the best players in New Orleans Saints history to wear every number, 00-99.
Yesterday, we did #50.
The pick: Sam Mills
When deciding who is the best New Orleans Saints player to ever wear #51, the choice is limited to punter Jim Fraser, offensive linemen Sylvester Croom, and linebackers Bill Saul, John Didion, Rusty Chambers, Warren Capone, Ron Crosby, Stan Holloway, Whitney Paul, Sam Mills, Larry McCoy, Ron Childs, Derrick Barnes, Phil Clarke, Brian Williams, Bryan Cox, Terrence Melton, Brian Simmons, and Jonathan Vilma.
There have been some outstanding linebackers, including Paul, Vilma, and Mills, that have worn #51, but we can only pick one, and the choice is going to be Mills, a middle linebacker who played nine years for the Saints, from 1986-1994.
After playing his college football at Montclair St., Mills went undrafted, and failed in his attempts to land in both the NFL and CFL.
The 5-foot-9, 230-pound Mills caught on with the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars of the United States Football League, being named a three-time All-USFL selection, before signing with the Saints prior to the 1986 season.
As a member of the "Dome Parol" linebacking corps, Mills was a nine-year starter for the Saints, compiling 894 tackles, to go along with four interceptions, and 17 fumble recoveries.
A four-time Pro Bowler during his time with the Saints, Mills was the anchor of one of the top defensive units in the league for almost an entire decade.
After signing with the expansion Carolina Panthers prior to the 1995 season, Mills went on to rack up 248 more tackles, as well as a 1996 Pro Bowl honor, in his thee years there.
In all, Mills played 12 seasons in the NFL, recording 1,319 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 11 interceptions and four touchdowns, while named to the NFL All-Pro team three times, in 1991, 1992, and 1996.
Sadly, Mills was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in August of 2003, and passed away in 2005.
Mills was elected to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1991, the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey in 1993, and the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame in 1998.