Luke Kuechly announces retirement at age 28

Josh Purnell, Courier Staff

Luke Kuechly, the middle linebacker of the Carolina Panthers, announced Tuesday night that he’s retiring from the NFL. He shared the news in a video that was posted on Carolina’s Twitter page. In the video, he did not give a specific reason why he’s retiring but said he isn’t able to play the game at the level he wanted to.

Kuechly went to Boston College University. His freshman year he led the team in tackles and almost broke the record for most tackles by a freshman. He went on to win the 2009 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year award and was on the 2009 CFN All Freshmen Defensive Team. For the next two years, he led the team in tackles and his last season in an Eagles uniform, he was awarded the Butkus Award, Lott IMPACT Award, Lombardi Award, Bronko Nagurski Award, Jack Lambert Award and ACC Defensive Player of the Year award. Kuechly was a three-time First Team All-America and a three-time First Team All ACC. Considering all of that, Mel Kiper did not have Kuechly drafted a top 10 pick.

Kuechly was selected ninth pick by the Carolina Panthers in the 2012 NFL Draft. Kuechly had an immediate impact on the team winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. The following year, the Panthers went 12-4, making it to the playoffs for the first time in five years. Carolina’s defense was ranked second in the league. During a game against their division rival New Orleans Saints, Kuechly recorded 26 tackles, the most tackles in a single game. Kuechly went on to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year joining Lawrence Taylor, Brian Urlacher, Charles Woodson, Terrell Suggs, Joe Greene, Jack Lambert and Dana Stubblefield to win both awards.

During the 2015 season, Kuechly signed a five-year $62 million contract. With a new contract comes a great season. The 2015 season was a special year for the Panthers as they finished the season 15-1. Cam Newton was having an MVP season and the Panther defense was ranked sixth best defense in the league. The Panthers went on a run through the playoff, making it to the Super Bowl. The Panthers have not been to the Super Bowl since 2003. The Panthers, unfortunately, came up short in the Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos 24-10.

Although the Panthers never made it back to the Super Bowl, they remain playoff contenders. Kuechly remained a leader, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Carolina defense was ranked top 10 five times in Kuechly’s eight-year career with the Panthers. Since his rookie year, Kuechly has recorded 100 tackles or more. Just this year, Kuechly has become the fifth player in NFL history to record 100 tackles or more in eight consecutive seasons. During those eight consecutive 100 tackles, Kuechly led the league in tackles in 2012 and 2014.

Over Kuechly’s eight-year career, he has gone to the Pro Bowl seven times, First Team All-Pro five times and was awarded the Butkus Award three times. Kuechly is considered the best middle linebacker of this generation. What he has done for the game only real fans and players knows. This is why it sucked to see him leaving so soon, he is a prime example of a class act pro athlete. I’ve never heard of him having problems with the law, never heard of him having problems with his opponents, never heard of him having problems with his teammates and coaches. Kuechly, who did not like being in the spotlight, only wanted to play the game he loves. Teammates and opponents will tell you that Kuechly is one of the smartest players in the NFL. His ability to read an offense and know what they are going to do before they hike the ball. That comes from sitting in the film rooms for hours studying your opponents, dissecting every part of their offense.

Although Kuechly only played eight seasons, will he go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame? No question about it, Kuechly is going to the Hall of Fame. His numbers speak for themselves, but even his peers will say that Kuechly is a Hall of Famer because they know what a great player he was. No doubt about it, Kuechly is the greatest Carolina Panther of all time.