Panthers Muhsin Muhammad receives a huge from Steve Smith after Thursday's press conference. (AP Photo)
CHARLOTTE – Muhsin Muhammad has long been preparing for his career after football.
On Thursday he decided it was time to start the next phase of his life.
Muhammad, who is already running an equity firm called Axum and has broadcasting career aspirations, officially announced his retirement on Thursday at a press conference at Bank of America Stadium.
"I've done everything I could possibly do in an NFL career for 14 years, outside of actually winning a championship ring," Muhammad said. "I've played in two Super Bowls, I have Super Bowl records and I've done a lot of good things throughout my career. I'm full, I'm fulfilled. I'm at peace with my decision."
Muhammad, 37, played 11 of his 14 NFL seasons with the Panthers after being selected in the second round of the 1996 NFL draft.
He holds the Panthers team records for career receptions with 696, receiving yards with 9,255, and is tied with Steve Smith for most touchdown passes with 50. His 155 games are the most for any starter and his 141 starts are tied with Mike Minter for the most in team history.
“He is the ultimate competitor and you always knew he would give you everything he had,” coach John Fox said of Muhammad. “We shared some great moments and his contributions were invaluable to the success we enjoyed. His receiving numbers reflect what kind of receiver he was, but he was also one of the best blocking wide outs to ever play in the NFL.”
Added general manager Marty Hurney: “The first word that come comes to mind when you think about Muhsin is toughness. His competitiveness was contagious in our locker room. He was a dependable playmaker and a leader who brought very much to our team.”
Selected in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft following his career at Michigan State. After catching 25 passes for 407 yards as a rookie, his receiving total increased each of the next four years.
In 1999 and 2000 Muhammad teamed with quarterback Steve Beuerlein to form one of the most dynamic passing combinations in the National Football League. His 96 receptions for 1,253 yards in 1999 earned Muhammad his first Pro Bowl berth and he followed that with 102 catches for 1,183 yards in 2000.
However, his most productive year came in 2004 when Muhammad recorded career highs of 1,405 receiving yards and 16 touchdown receptions, all of those from Jake Delhomme.
“When I think of what a picture of a pro football player would look like, I think of Muhsin Muhammad,” said Delhomme, now in Cleveland. “He was someone who exemplified the qualities of being smart and tough. He was an unselfish player because of everything he did – film study, preparation, working out and all of those things. He showed up to play every single week. He was a true pro.”
The Panthers opted not to give Muhammad a $10 million signing bonus after that season and he bolted for Chicago, where he spent three seasons.
"You never should have left," Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said Thursday.
Muhammad jokingly blamed that on general manager Marty Hurney, but then added, "Making up was better than breaking up.”
Muhammad returned to Carolina in 2008 and helped lead the Panthers to a 12-4 record and an NFC South title when he caught 65 passes for 923 yards and five touchdowns.
He culminated his career with 53 catches for 581 yards and one touchdown last season. Muhammad also proved to be as durable as productive during his long NFL career.
In the last 12 years of his career, he started at least 13 games 11 times, missing that mark only in 2001. During his career, he played in 202 regular season game and 11 playoff contests, starting 188 times. He finishes his career 14-year career with 860 catches for 11,438 receiving yards and 62 touchdowns.
Several former teammates came to watch the press conference following Thursday’s practice.
Muhammad thanked at length former coaches, teammates and people in the organization, saving owner Jerry Richardson for last. He didn’t tear up until he looked at wife and former high school sweetheart Christa, sitting in the front, and Smith sitting in the back.
"I was trying to keep my eyes away from them because I knew I was going to get emotional," Muhammad said. "Playing with [Smith] and not being able to play with him again. Tears of joy more for my wife and I and our relationship."
After the press conference Smith embraced Muhammad and there were more tears.
In the community Muhammad was as productive as he was one field. He started the M2 Foundation for Kids, which is dedicated to enhancing the educational, physical and spiritual development of children.
"It's been exhilarating, it's been fun, it's been really fulfilling," Muhammad said. "I really love my fans, the community. I'll always be here, be a part of this. It's been really refreshing to always have the support of the fans, the organization, the city, of the state. It's been an honor to represent this organization."
He and his wife Christa have six children, including two siblings they adopted from Ethiopia.