An NFL Legend passed away today; Mike McCormack, 83, was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman with the Cleveland Browns, but his impact might have been even more important for the Carolina Panthers. While he only served as the team’s President for the first two years of the team’s existence and many Panthers fans may not even know who he is, his role with the team was in getting the team there in the first place. He was an adviser to Jerry Richardson and played a critical role in getting the team there.
“It is safe to say that we would probably not have a team in the Carolinas if it were not for Mike McCormack,” Richardson said. “He had the contacts in the National Football League and was universally respected by everyone associated with professional football. He was a wonderful man, and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Ann, and the entire McCormack family.”
Before McCormack was a part of helping the Panther organization getting founded, he was a player and a coach and a veteran of the armed forces. McCormack began his pro career with the New York Yanks in 1951 before serving two years in the Army. When he returned, he became a member of the Browns for nine seasons and was in the Pro Bowl six times. He blocked for Otto Graham and was a part of the championship teams that won in ’55 and ’54. He also blocked for Jim Brown before he retired.
When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994, Paul Brown called McCormack the “finest linemen I have ever coached.” McCormack was also named to USA Today’s 75th anniversary all-NFL team as one of the three finest tackles in league history. After finishing his playing career, McCormack worked as an assistant coach for several teams before he ultimately ended up as a consultant for the Panthers in 1989.
Mike McCormack was extremely important to two different teams for completely different reasons and is a true link between the NFL’s past and future, playing for a dynasty in his career as well as helping one of the youngest teams in the league being formed. He was a highly influential man and he will be missed. It is tough to beat a Hall of Fame NFL career, but for Panthers fans, he might have done just that.