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Monday, May 12, 2008

Curtis Whitley Dead at 39

Former Panthers center Curtis Whitley, a Clemson alum, has passed away. No immediate causes given yet, but it's somewhat expected to be related to substance abuse.

Whitley was one of the original Panthers and a building block. Initially, the starting line included Whitley at center, former 9ers reserve Harry Boatswain at guard, former Chief Derrick Graham was penciled in at LT, and people thought that Randy Baldwin or Vernon Turner would be the starting RB (remember being shocked that Derrick Moore wouldn't return?). Graham would start less games than Mark Dennis, a former Dolphin afterthought. Frank Garcia and Matt Elliott would be two centers starting at guard, and Matt Campbell was still technically a TE. Whitley ended up being the most solid part of that line, along with Brockermeyer as building blocks.

An alcohol related suspension in October 1996 took him out of the lineup, and then inevitably out of the Carolinas. Garcia moved inside, having been replaced by Elliott at LG for the arrival of supposed RT solution Greg Skrepenak at guard. Garcia wouldn't leave center again (with exception of the 1998 injury debacle at C) until after 2000, and would stay with Campbell and Brockermeyer as the heart of a really mediocre line.

Total Up To Four
As the age of the franchise hits 15 (if you count awarding of the franchise) or 13 (years on the field), you're seeing players that have played extensive careers sadly walk away as career Panthers. More and more concerning, however, includes a total of four Panthers to die in this last decade, an oddity for a young team. Joining Fred Lane, Sam Mills, and Reggie White is now Whitley, the least successful and storied of the group. Mortality befalls everyone, and athletes are no different, but it's just odd to think of players you saw within the last five or ten years dying off.
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