Photo courtesy of Tumblr

Savage on the Field, Sweetheart Off

In a world where good professional football players are known for their efforts on the field, Carolina Panthers linebacker—and former Boston College Eagle—Luke Kuechly dares to differentiate himself from the crowd.

It is undeniable that Kuechly is great at his job. He was drafted ninth over all in the 2012 NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers and has been making waves ever since. Kuechly is one of the Panthers’ star linebackers and one of their most effective defensemen. He was instrumental in the Panthers’ very successful 17-1 season this year, earning them a spot in Super Bowl 50 where they will face the Denver Broncos in just two weeks.

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

Kuechly’s success dates back to 2009 in his debut season at Boston College, where he was a force to be reckoned with from day one. At age 18, and three months into his inaugural season, ESPN dubbed Kuechly as “one of the best linebackers in the country.” He was credited with countless tackles, earned several awards—including First-Team All-American nominations in 2009-2011 and the Butkus Award—and endless praise from BC coaches, ESPN commentators, and other respected sports figures.

It was clear that Luke Kuechly was destined to be a very successful and respected professional athlete, worthy of high praise, glory, and the ongoing spotlight, like so many other greats before him.

Kuechly has certainly held up his standard of greatness in his career in the NFL. Just one look at his statistics from the 2015-16 season demonstrates his efficacy on the team. Kuechly finished the regular season with 118 tackles, 76 of which were solo. He also boasted one sack, four interceptions, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one touchdown, all this while missing three games. 

In this past Sunday’s 49-15 blowout against the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship, Kuechly's pick-six sealed the fate for the Panther's Super Bowl berth, ultimately causing one overly excited fan to fall out of the stands while celebrating. Kuechly was quick to jump into action, stepping in and helping the spectator back onto his feet.

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

This moment of kindness and compassion, even in the heat of the game, is not isolated for Kuechly. That is truly what makes him stand out, not just as a player, but as a positive role model for young football fans to admire and for parents to respect. He is beloved in the Carolina Panthers community and also in the larger sports community. Fans not only call on “LUUUUUKKKEEEE” during the games, but way from the field as well.

Kuechly grew up outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, attending an all boys’ Catholic high school, St. Xavier’s. The school's Jesuit motto, “Men for Others,” is eerily similar to the mission of a certain school he chose to attend following high school. His choice to attend BC not only aligned with his aspirations on the field, but also his values and priorities off the field. 

Kuechly, at just 24 years old, has made a name for himself, both as a great football player as a great person. He has taken the many mottos ofrom BC's campus—Ever to Excel, Men and Women for Others, etc.—to new heights. There are countless stories of his good deeds for family members, teammates, and also complete strangers.

Most recently, he surprised Jessica Hayes, a self-proclaimed Superfan with cerebral palsy autism, cortical blindness, and hydrocephalus, on her 21st birthday. Kuechly was more than happy to surprise one of his biggest supporters and be a guest at her party; proving himself to be quite the gentleman, he made sure to arrive with flowers, compliment her dress, and interact with every guest in attendance. 

Teammates also speak very highly of Kuechly.  “He’s just an awesome dude. He’s a great teammate. He’s a good friend. You can’t say enough good things about him," says Greg Olsen. "And he’s also an All-Pro middle linebacker. It’s a pretty good combination.”

Maybe great parents or schooling from St. Xavier’s and Boston College shaped Luke Kuechly to be the son, brother, linebacker, and humanitarian he is today, or maybe he was just born with a desire to excel. Regardless of where it comes from, he has set a new standard for what it means to be a great player in the NFL. In Kuechly's own words, “Just be nice to everyone, because that’s the right way to do it.”

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