It’s a sad day when a player calls it a career.
It’s even more sad when it’s a player like Carolina Panthers superstar linebacker, Luke Kuechly. On Tuesday night, he took to twitter to share a heartfelt video explaining now is the right time for him to step away from the game of football. “It’s never the right time to step away, but now is the right time for me. It’s a tough decision. I’ve thought about it a lot. I think now is the right chance for me to move on,” Kuechly said. “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. The memories I have from this place and this organization and playing on the field with these guys, they’ll never go away.”
At just 28 years old, Kuechly established himself as one of the best players to ever play the position. Taken out of Boston College in 2012 as the ninth overall pick, he captured the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award. From day one, he made his presence felt. During his eight seasons as the Panthers defensive signal caller, he amassed seven Pro Bowls, five first team All-Pro honors, and the 2013 AP Defensive Player of the Year. He finishes his remarkable career with 1,092 total tacklers, 12.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles, 18 interceptions in 118 career games played.
Anyone who has watched number 59 play knows there simply are not many in the conversation with him. However, former San Francisco 49ers linebacker, Patrick Willis, leads that conversation. Kuechly seemingly has followed Willis’ lead; play and dominate about seven seasons or so, then retire in your prime before the age of 30.
Unfortunately, it is easy to see why Kuechly is calling it career even though he is still in his prime. He suffered numerous documented concussions, as well as a couple shoulder injuries during the past few seasons. Like Willis, he has a strong chance to make a bid for Canton one day down the road despite shortened careers.
Kuechly now joins the recent wave of guys retiring by 31 years old. That list includes several studs such as the aforementioned Willis, Calvin Johnson, Andrew Luck, Rob Gronkowski, Doug Baldwin, and even a star in the making who retired after his dominant rookie season, Chris Borland. This trend will likely continue as players are earning set-your-grandchildren-up money in addition to learning about the residual effects of head trauma and CTE. Despite it being sad to see stars like this depart early, it is indeed the smart move.
With Kuechly now riding off into the sunset, head coach Ron Rivera being replaced by former Baylor coach Matt Rhule, and the status/future of QB1 Cam Newton in doubt, the Panthers could be looking at a rebuild to the future.
One thing is for certain though, players like 59 don’t come around every day. When the time comes, his name should be up for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
For more information on the Carolina Panthers fans are encouraged to click on the link seen here: