If all you want from the athletes whose jerseys you wear and autographs you seek are numbers, then you probably celebrated when you read that the Panthers cut Jake Delhomme. He wasn't very good last season.
But if you want a guy who played hard and hurt, set every passing record the franchise has and refused to blame TV-star commentator receivers who made him look bad when they cut off their route early, then you'll miss Jake.
I will. No matter how much longer I do this, he'll be one of my favorite athletes. I didn't have to spend time with him and write about him. I got to.
He was a quarterback who led his team to two NFC championships and one Super Bowl. He was a leader who believed so strongly that the players around him had no choice but to believe, too. We all remember the touchdown passes in his Carolina debut against Jacksonville -- we forget the interceptions.
That was Jake. Jake took chances. And those of you whose memories go back all the way to 2008 will remember that most of them succeeded.
He was fun to watch, fun to write about and fun to get to know. Nothing he did ever suggested that he was a starting quarterback and you weren't. He routinely and quietly accomplished so much that we didn't write about because he didn't want us to know about it -- the hospital visits, the courtesies and the constant class.
A Panther employee recalled Friday a visit Jake made to a dying woman and was moved to tears.
Last summer, a week after I could finally walk all by myself from one end of the house to the other, I went to Carolina's training camp. I was coming off radiation treatment and chemotherapy for the cancer I had removed in April.
I had nothing. I always figure I can will myself to do things, and I'm often wrong. But if I don't believe, who will?
One day at camp, a typical Spartanburg morning in which the temperature was 104 in the shade, if there had been shade, the quarterbacks finished their drill in the middle of the field.
The other quarterbacks made the smart move and hustled to the tent for water. Jake jogged over to the fence I stood behind and leaned against, squarely in the sun. He offered his hand, told me he had just heard that I had been sick and asked me if I was OK.
This was during a brief break in practice; he was sweating like a sumo wrestler. He needed water.
Yet, he cared enough to walk over. I didn't have the energy to talk but he didn't leave until I told him that, yeah, I was OK.
It was a little thing, a small gesture. But it was telling.
It was Jake.
He was like that to everybody. He leaves a legacy that will endure long after the frustrations of 2009 fade.
Jake never thought that his job made him special.
He was right.
He would have been special no matter what he did.