Although the 1980's didn't necessarily bring the same success that the 1970's did on a national stage, this decade actually showcased a few more All-Americans. Big names like Dan Marino and Mark May, two of the biggest names in the history of the program, emerged. Let's take a look at these players along with some others that played on those Panthers teams during the 1980's.
Mark May - After being selected as the 20th overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, May won two Super Bowls (XVII and XXII) with the same team. He was also named one of the 70 greatest Redskins of all time.
Following his retirement, May was hired by TNT to be a studio analyst on Sunday Night Football broadcasts and two years later he became a game analyst for them. He now works for ESPN as an analyst and commentator and is often paired with former Notre Dame Head Coach Lou Holtz.
May is regarded as one of the greatest and most beloved Panthers of all time. His jersey was retired in 2001 (73) and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
Jimbo Covert - Covert was chosen by the Chicago Bears as the 6th overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft. Winning one Super Bowl with the Bears (XX), Covert was also named to the NFL All-Decade Team in 1990.
Since retiring from the NFL, Covert has focused on healthcare sales, marketing and acquisition initiatives. After working with various healthcare institutions and even starting one, he was named President and Chief Executive Officer of The Institute for Transfusion Medicine. Its two centers are located in Pittsburgh (Central Blood Bank) and Chicago (LifeSource).
Dan Marino - Arguably the most successful Pitt football player of all time, Dan Marino was selected 27th overall by the Miami Dolphins in 1983. Marino would play for the Dolphins for his entire career that lasted 17 seasons. Over those years, Marino at one time held almost every major NFL passing record. While he never won a Super Bowl, he was named the #25 NFL Player of all-time by NFL.com in 2009.
Marino's jersey was retired by the Dolphins in 2000, named to the College Hall of Fame in 2003, and was inducted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
He also owned a NASCAR team that won a Winston Cup in 1998, but was closed after that same season. Marino is now an analyst for CBS' Sunday pregame show The NFL Today.
Sal Sunseri - After being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1982 NFL Draft, Sunseri suffered a career ending knee injury and never actually played in the NFL. His coaching career began in 1985 when he returned to Pitt where he worked as a defensive line and linebacker's coach.
After jumping around from team to team, he landed a job with the Carolina Panthers in the NFL as a defensive line coach. He coached in Carolina for six seasons and was then named to the Alabama Crimson Tide coaching staff as an outside linebackers coach.
Bill Fralic - The highest drafted player featured in this series as of yet, Fralic was chosen with the 2nd overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons.
After the NFL, Fralic worked as a color commentator for the Atlanta Falcons' radio broadcasts and was then the radio color guy for Pitt until this Summer when he was replaced by Pat Bostick.
Craig "Ironhead" Heyward - Selected with the 24th pick in the first round by the New Orleans Saints, Heyward jumped around a few different teams during his eleven year career. Weighing in at a reported 300+ pounds, he was regarded as one of the NFL's best "big man" running backs along the lines of a Jerome Bettis mold.
Heyward lost his battle with cancer and passed away on May 27, 2006. After struggling with alcoholism and then cancer for 7 1/2 years, Ironhead had faced more adversity than his body could handle. His son, Cameron, is currently a rookie defensive end for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mark Stepnoski - Drafted in 1989 in the third round as the 57th overall selection, Stepnoski went on to win one Super Bowl (XXVII) with the Dallas Cowboys and played in the NFL for 13 seasons. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in five consecutive seasons from 1992-1996, playing for both the Cowboys and the Houston/Tennessee Oilers during that span.
Stepnoski is notably known as a marijuana legalization advocate and is an active member of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).
Jerry Olsavsky - After playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers for nine seasons, Olsavsky returned to the team in 2010 as a Defensive Quality Control coach. He still currently holds the position.
Marc Spindler - In 1990, Spindler was chosen by the Detroit Lions in the third round of the NFL Draft. He played with them that team for the first four and last two seasons of his career, both surrounding a short tenure with the New York Jets.
After his playing career he has worked for a few different Detroit area sports talk show radio stations and still remains on the radio in the Detroit area to this day.
Who was your favorite player from the 1980's?
Dan Marino (55 votes)
Mark May (320 votes)
Craig "Ironhead" Heyward (14 votes)
Bill Fralic (11 votes)
Other (3 votes)
403 total votes