John Kasay was one of the finest gentlemen and best players the Carolina Panthers ever employed. So it was altogether fitting that he signed a one-day contract with the team Tuesday so he could officially retire as a Panther.

After a 21-year NFL career, Kasay, 43, has already moved onto a new role as Charlotte Christian’s head athletic director and assistant high school football coach. Generally one to avoid the spotlight, Kasay decided to let it shine on him one last time Tuesday so he could use it to reflect his thanks to all the fans who watched him kick for the Panthers from 1995-2010.

“I told Mr. Richardson the reason I wanted to do this is I can’t write 70,000 thank-you notes,” Kasay said. “I wish that I could. But this is my feeble attempt to tell everybody thank you.”

Eventually, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson should induct Kasay into the team’s Hall of Honor. There is no more deserving recipient to join the late linebacker Sam Mills – the only former Panther player in what now is a very small hall. But the Panthers have a five-year post-retirement waiting period for consideration, they say, so the earliest that could happen would be 2018.

Kasay was known as “The Last Original Panther” for so long that the phrase seemed part of his name. The left-footer kicked for the Panthers when they were an expansion team, playing home games in Clemson, S.C., in 1995, and for the next 15 years after that.

Kasay outlasted three Panther head coaches and overcame two significant injuries while in Charlotte. He never got to kick for Carolina’s fourth head coach, Ron Rivera, because the Panthers made the ill-considered move of firing Kasay in the summer of 2011 and signing Olindo Mare in his stead. That didn’t work. The Panthers are now on their third attempt at replacing Kasay since they released him.

Kasay went to New Orleans for one year after the Panthers fired him, kicking for the rival Saints. But when the Saints’ regular kicker got healthy they in turn released Kasay prior to the 2012 season. Although he had one other undisclosed opportunity, he did not kick in the NFL last year.

Even during his season in New Orleans, Kasay’s deeply rooted family stayed in Charlotte. For years, Kasay banked goodwill in the Charlotte community by becoming the team’s leading scorer by a mile while also coaching youth baseball teams, speaking to area churches about his deep Christian faith, quietly supporting charities and signing autographs for hours.