The 2012 NFL Draft will always be memorable to me. That was the draft when Andrew Luck went first overall to the Indianapolis Colts. Then, Robert Griffin III was second in a draft day trade to the Washington Redskins. At nine, the Carolina Panthers drafted a middle linebacker out of Boston College named Luke Kuechly. This came after a year when the Panthers made the decision to draft Cam Newton with the overall number one pick. It was only fitting they drafted an important position on offense one year and decide to bring in the quarterback of the defense the following. Over the years, it’s been difficult for Luke to stay on the field. Tonight, he appeared on a video on social media talking about a decision that he made. That decision was he was deciding to retire from the game of football. At the age of 28.

During his time in the NFL, he was one of the five or six best defensive players in the game. Luke was the consonant linebacker. He was smart, fast and tough. There have been many great linebackers to come into the league over the years, but Luke was just a different breed. To play the position of linebacker, you must have great instincts. That was number 59 to the t. If you watch the great linebackers closely, they want to sit through traffic. I’ve seen him with blockers in his face then uses his speed to slip underneath to make a play on the football. Those are things you can’t coach. He was always that guy who’s named showed up on the game plan when preparing to face the Carolina Panthers. Luke was a tackling machine. You could always pencil him in for 10 to 15 tackles a game. Wherever the ball carrier was, he was. He was so quick to get himself in the perfect position to make a stop. When you needed him to blitz, he’d burst right up the middle and get the sack. One thing he never received credit for was how smart he was. Luke was always watching film. He would call out plays consistently. Talk about reading an offense. Each time the quarterback snapped the ball, he was attacking the gaps. I noticed how good he was in pass coverage. He had no issue with dropping back to cover. I’ll always remember a late-season game against the New Orleans Saints in 2013. Luke finished that game with 24 solo tackles and one interception. He played sideline to sideline, then played back in coverage as if he were a safety.

In his rookie year, he was named defensive rookie of the year for a stellar first season. Kuechly led the league with 164 tackles during the regular season and recorded 8 pass deflections, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. 2013, he was named defensive player of the year and helped the Panthers lock up one of the top-two seeds in the NFC that year. You couldn’t mention middle linebackers without bringing up Luke Kuechly. Concussions played a big factor in his career. He missed many games. He’s the closest thing I saw to Brian Urlacher. They both had that same style of play which was downhill. I’ll miss watching this guy play. However, I’m glad he’s walking away on his own.


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