John Kasay was an original Carolina Panther. He was the team's kicker in 1995, their first year in existence, and remained a Panther (and one of the league's best kickers) for the next 15 years.
The team released him a couple of weeks ago.
If there was any doubt about what Kasay meant to the team, or what the team meant to Kasay, it was cleared up when he wrote this thank-you letter to the team's fans and asked Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer to spread the word.
Here's the letter. The full text of it appears after the jump.
Dear Panther Fans,
I wanted to personally write this letter to every Carolina Panther fan. Words cannot express how truly thankful my family and I are for the most wonderful 16 years of our lives.
We came to the Panthers as a young family with a 3-month-old baby. We leave with 4 children, 2 of whom are in high school. In between, you have loved and cheered and blessed us way more than we ever deserved. The only thing I could offer in return was the promise that I would try my best, every day, to make you proud.
Thank you for your encouragement when I failed. Thank you for the celebrations when we won. And most of all, thank you for letting me leave with a treasture-trove of memories that time cannot erase.
It is my hope that the greatest years in Panthers history are still to come. A franchise decorated with numerous Lombardi Trophies. Dozens of Hall-of-Fame players. And a region that swells with pride whenever they speak of their beloved Panthers.
It has been a tremendous privilege to live in Charlotte, to play for the Carolina Panthers, and to be able to share my life-long dream of playing in the NFL with all of you.
I pray that this will be a wonderful season and we will all get to watch the Panthers return to their rightful place as one of the most feared teams in the NFL.
May God bless you. Thank you again for the memories.