To the community of Boston College, Luke Kuechly was a real life Clark Kent. From his polite, unassuming demeanor, to the glasses that he wore as he roamed the campus. The first time I heard the name, Luke Kuechly, was from my sister a classmate of Kuechly’s at Boston College. She told me how surprised she was to find the 2009 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year, a veritable superman on the field, could be so quiet and reserved.
Yet on Saturdays inside Alumni Stadium, Luke Kuechly’s play spoke loud and clear. In his freshman year Kuechly moved into a starting role after Mark Herzlich announced he would miss the season due to his battle with cancer and became an X-factor practically overnight. Kuechly was the first freshman to lead the team in tackles and nearly broke Stephen Boyd’s freshman tackling record.
The next year, 2010, Kuechly led the nation with 183 tackles, 110 he recorded single handily, went 21 straight games with 10 tackles or more, and broke the single season record for tackles. He was a finalist for the Butkus and Nagurski awards and was the first Eagle to be a consensus All-American since Jamie Silva in 2007.
In 2011, Kuechly’s final year at BC, in which the 4-8 Eagles did not play in a bowl, Kuechly managed to accumulate 191 tackles in only 12 games, 2 shy of the NCAA all-time record. Kuechly did manage to break the NCAA all-time record for tackles per game with 15.9. He set the BC and ACC record for career tackles with 532, falling 13 short of another NCAA record. Kuechly did receive the Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, Lott IMPACT Trophy, and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, and for the second year in a row was a consensus All-American.
How did Kuechly follow up a legendary collegiate career?
Well...(deep breath) a top 10 draft pick in 2012, Defensive Rookie of the Year, led the league with 164 tackles during the regular season, 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, the youngest player to ever win it, , the only player since Lawrence Taylor to win the Defensive ROY and POY in successive seasons, 3 time Butkus award winner (yes, the pros have a Butkus award too), 5 time First-Team All-Pro, 3 time Second-Team All-Pro, a 7 time pro-bowler, helped the Panthers to 3 NFC South Titles, a Super Bowl appearance in 2015, and his 1,092 tackles are the most in the NFL since he entered the league. Kuechly was also a nominee for the NFL 100 All-Time Greatest Team at linebacker.
All these tackles however came at a cost and Kuechly’s kryptonite was a very real one. Kuechly suffered 3 concussions in consecutive seasons (2015, 2016, and 2017) one which kept him out of the last 6 games of the 2016 season. In all likelihood, Kuechly suffered way more than three concussions during his time and countless ones throughout his career. These concussion plus the overall wear and tear over a 1,000 tackles put on his body are likely a reason that Kuechly is choosing now to retire. With Andrew Luck’s early-retirement prior to the season it maybe isn’t a surprise that Kuechly is choosing to leave now while he still has his health. Luck took a lot of hits in his career but Kuechly’s profession was based on his ability to hit as often as he could and as hard as he could. With the risks that can be associated with head injuries it is good to see that Kuechly, who has nothing left to prove on the field, put his health first. It may be an early exit but no one can fault Kuechly for deciding to leave while he is still has his health. Just saying Kuechly is calling it quits seems to do him a disservice, after he so clearly gave the game every he could. There is no doubting Kuechly’s greatness and he will have a bust in Canton one day.
In a message that’s been posted on the Panther’s website an emotional Kuechly said, Now is the right opportunity for me to move in a different direction...It makes me sad because I love playing this game, I’ve played it since I was a kid. It’s my favorite thing in the world to do...There’s only one way to play this game since I was a little kid – play fast, play physical and play strong. And at this point I don’t know if I am able to do that anymore...that is the part that is the most difficult part.” Kuechly went on to say, “Now is the right opportunity for me to move in a different direction.” Click here for the link to the full video.
Kuechly thanked Panthers ownership, his former Head Coach Ron Rivera, his fellow Panther teammates, support staff, the training staff, the Panthers’ fans, and his family. and showed the type of class that made him such a beloved member of the BC Football Family. No doubt his passion for the game is as strong as it ever was. That much is clear from the emotion on his face.
Hopefully, Kuechly will return to the Heights next year for a game or two and give Boston College a chance to thank him for a great career. I look forward to seeing what Kuechly does with his life going forward, because from all accounts, as great a player as Luke Kuechly was doesn’t even come close to how great of a person he is.