Former Boston College standout and Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly has been named the Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. The Eagles' tackling machine didn't skip a beat playing on Sundays, leading the league as a rookie with 164 tackles, including over 100 solo tackles, two interceptions, eight passes defended and eleven stuffed runs.
Kuechly earned 28 out of a possible 50 votes in a poll of media members who cover the NFL to take home this year's honors. Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner finished second with 11 votes. Green Bay CB Casey Hayward got six votes, St. Louis CB Janoris Jenkins got three and Tampa Bay LB Lavonte David got the other two.
The former Boston College backer started the season on the outside but moved to MLB five games into the season. As Cat Scratch Reader explains, Kuechly's success this year wasn't guaranteed.
For a while it looked like a bad experiment. Taking the stalwart Boston College MLB and trying to turn him into a weakside linebacker. When Jon Beason was lost to injury, it was Kuechly's time to take over the middle -- and he took over. Week in, week out we saw a player continue to mature and grow. He ability to recognize and diagnose plays improved, his first step became quicker, and in ten games he recorded double-digit tackles.
In week fourteen against the Atlanta Falcons, Kuechly has his best game as a pro. Finishing with 16 tackles, he grounded a high-flying Falcons offense, and ensured their play-action passing game could never get started. He has now cemented himself as the Panthers' future at the position, while Dave Gettleman will need to decide what to do with Beason moving forward.
Kuechly adds the AP's Defensive Rookie of the Year award to his modest trophy collection that includes the PFW/PFWA Defensive Rookie of the Year, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Lott IMPACT Trophy, Lombardi Award, Butkus Award, ACC Athlete of the Year, ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Emerald Bowl Defensive MVP (we lost), Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Defensive MVP (lost again), first-team All-ACC, first-team All-American (2009, 2010, 2011) and consensus All-American honors (only 2010, you know nothing AFCA).
On the other side of the ball, Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III won the AP's Offensive Rookie of the Year award, beating out Indianapolis' Andrew Luck and Seattle's Russell Wilson. RG III, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, and Luke Kuechly. Yeah, no big.
Congratulations to Kuechly on a tremendous rookie season and best of luck moving forward in your career. All of no one associated with Boston College is surprised at your success in the league.