The man who built the Carolina Panthers from scratch and had them in the playoffs in their second season will have a place in the Hall of Fame.
Bill Polian, the Panthers’ first general manager, was one of eight men selected to the Hall on Saturday in voting by the 46-member Hall selection committee.
Polian might be best known as the architect of the Buffalo teams that went to four consecutive Super Bowls and for overseeing the successful run of the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis squads that culminated with a Super Bowl win after the 2006 season.
But Polian made a mark during his three years with Carolina. He hired coach Dom Capers, drafted quarterback Kerry Collins and constructed a team that lost to Green Bay in the 1996 NFC Championship Game in the Panthers’ second year of existence.
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Polian, 72, who works for ESPN and still lives in the Charlotte area, said he most remembers the friendships he made with the Panthers.
“Everybody knows what a great coach Dom is, a lot of great players – too many to mention right now,” Polian said. “It was a great time, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
Polian and former Packers GM Ron Wolf became the first inductees in the newly created contributors category.
“It’s really overwhelming. Never in a million years would I have ever thought that I would be here. These guys here, they’re so far beyond my pay grade it’s not even close,” Polian said.
“But what this is about for me is the players and coaches that I’ve been so fortunate to be with over the years. And the biggest thrill tonight is to be able to share it – obviously with my family – but have Jim Kelly and Peyton Manning here, too.”
Polian and the rest of the new Hall members will be inducted in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 8.