Carolina Panthers

John Kasay, the last original Panther, signs four-year deal

Panthers kicker John Kasay signed a four-year contract extension, keeping him with the team until 2012.
Panthers kicker John Kasay signed a four-year contract extension, keeping him with the team until 2012.

CHARLOTTE -- John Kasay looked so much like a kid when he signed with the Carolina Panthers that he tried to keep team employees from putting a hat on him.

Now, he's going to hang around long enough they might have to help him to the door.

Kasay, one of the Panthers' first two unrestricted free agent signings in 1995, is hanging around. Kasay, two days after his 39th birthday, signed a four-year contract extension through 2012. At that point, he'll be 43, but at this point, it's hard to put anything past him.

"I'm not advanced yet, I'm getting older," Kasay said. "Don't put me out to pasture yet.

"I can't say that I thought I'd be standing here. I just turned 39 the other day. And announcing that I would be signing a contract, I figured it would be more of a retirement speech a few years ago. But I've been very blessed and very thankful. The Richardson family, this organization, I can't say how kind they've been to me, my wife and my family.

"To have the opportunity to still do the very same thing that I was doing when I was 12 years old, I wouldn't have guessed it in a million years. It's been a huge blessing. God's blessed me and my family -- and it's still fun."

The fun's very much a part of this.

Kasay's always had a boyish charm. He uses the word "neat" a lot, because to him, it is.

He was concerned about looking like a little kid at his introductory press conference in 1995, which is why he wouldn't keep a hat on at a time when the Panthers were looking to aggressively market the new brand. Between monstrous defensive end Mike Fox and imposing owner Jerry Richardson, he was sensitive about his appearance and teased director of communications Charlie Dayton about his persistence.

"I already looked like I was 18 as it was," Kasay said, grinning. "And Charlie sticking that had on my head made me look like I was 12."

When he talked about kicking in practice Wednesday, it took him back to a simpler time as well.

"To get to the end of this contract would be nice," he said when asked about goals. "I don't know, and I don't want to know. That's not why I play. I wasn't kicking the ball in the backyard when I was 6 years old for records. I did it because I enjoyed it. It's still fun for me.

"It was neat to watch the ball fly at 39. I can still do the things I was doing when I was 18 years old."

Of course, Kasay learned long ago not to look too far ahead.

The toughest stretch of his career began in late 1999, when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left (kicking) knee in Green Bay. The next summer, while beginning his rehab, he broke his left kneecap in half and was out another year. In 2002, he missed all but two games with a sports hernia.

Looking ahead has never interested him.

He was asked on Feb. 17, 2004, when he signed his five-year contract extension, whether it would be his last.

"I definitely foresee this being my last contract," Kasay said. "Where we are five years from now, I don't think any of us know. But it's given me an opportunity to be here for a very long time, and I'm very appreciative."

Wednesday, he was able to laugh about that memory.

"Well, if you and I had to put money on it, what would you say?" Kasay replied. "That's what I thought."

Panthers officials said his age was of little concern when they began talking about an extension. General manager Marty Hurney wouldn't say when they started talking, only that the deal was agreed to and signed Wednesday morning. Kasay acts as his own agent, and terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

"He's always been a player we've targeted to extend," Hurney said. "He's certainly showing all the signs he's going to be able to do this for a while. When you evaluate his ability, his work ethic and his approach, I think you realize he's kicking about as strong as he ever has.

"Kickers past and present have shown their ability to do this into their 40s, and I think he'll be able to do the same.

Kasay's doing it as well as ever, which strengthens the point.

After hitting a pair of field goals last week, he's perfect on all 16 attempts this season. Going back to 2007, he's hit 21 straight, the longest streak of his career.

He's close to passing Al Del Greco for 12th place on the league's all-time scoring list (he's eight points short, with 1,576), and he just passed Hall-of-Famer Jan Stenerud for eighth place on the all-time field goals made list (374).

"Hopefully they're still coming," he said when asked about career highlights. "This is a Super Bowl organization. And I look forward to the day to have the opportunity to be on a team to be able to give that gift to the Richardson family that has made a huge number of sacrifices to help this city, to help this community and to help a lot of us as employees."