Even after leaving the face of the earth 10 years ago following a lengthy battle with intestinal cancer, Sam Mills continues to defy the odds.
Yes, the former New Orleans Saints middle linebacker is among the 25 modern-era semifinalists being considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2016, joining quarterback Brett Favre, former Saints kicker Morten Andersen and quarterback Kenny Stabler, among others.
After the field of 25 is reduced to 15 finalists in January and eventually the last four-to-eight are left standing, the Class of 2016 will be introduced Feb. 6 on NFL Network the night before Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
And while Mills' chances of election are slim this year, the mere fact that he stands tall with some of the game's former greats is a testament to the man known as the "Field Mouse" considering the National Football League initially didn't want him.
You see, back in 1980 when Mills came out of tiny Montclair (N.J.) State College, there wasn't a great demand in pro football for a 5-foot-9 linebacker. But he wouldn't take no for an answer and eventually found his way into Jim Mora's heart, first in the USFL with the Philadelphia Stars (1983-85) and again in the NFL with the Saints (1986-94).
Mills ended his playing career with the expansion Carolina Panthers (1995-97) and later became an assistant coach there before his death April 18, 2005, at the age of 45.
And now Samuel Davis Mills Jr. is knocking on the door of football heaven.
The news of Mills being a semifinalist comes days before Sunday's NFC South clash between the Saints and undefeated Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the very teams where he made his mark during a distinguished 12-year NFL career.
Mills is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and the Panthers' Hall of Honor. Carolina went one giant step farther, erecting a life-size statue of Mills that stands outside Bank of America Stadium in downtown Charlotte, N.C.
Mills, who along with former Saints linebackers Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling and Vaughan Johnson formed the infamous "Dome Patrol," came to be admired in New Orleans.
But he was beloved in Carolina, proving to be an inspirational force during the Panthers' post-season run to Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2003. His plea to "Keep Pounding" in an emotional speech before the Panthers' victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship later became the name of a fund to sponsor cancer research programs and an official team slogan.
Even as Mills underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments he continued to coach.
In 2005, the Panthers retired his No. 51, marking the first jersey recognition by the organization.
It has been my sincere hope that Mills one day soon will be added to the Saints Ring of Honor in the Superdome, along with inaugural inductees Archie Manning, Rickey Jackson and Willie Roaf and the newest member, Morten Andersen.
Regardless, I will continue to look up to Sam Mills, the player and the man.
Rest assured, he will continue to smile down upon all of us.