Carolina Panthers star linebacker, Luke Kuechly dropped a major surprise on the sports world Tuesday evening by announcing his retirement. The team’s official Twitter account posted a video of Kuechly with the caption “in my heart, I know it’s the right thing to do.”
Kuechly went on to discuss his decision in what proved to be an emotional video for the All-Pro linebacker, who’s just 28 years old.
Kuechly has put together a superb career, racking up seven Pro Bowl appearances and being named to a First-Team All-Pro five times. He was also a Second-Team All-Pro twice and won the Art Rooney Award, given for outstanding sportsmanship on the field in 2017.
“I think now is the right chance for me to move on, it makes me sad because I love playing this game, I’ve played it since I was a kid. ” said Kuechly. ” It’s my favorite thing to do in the world to do. The memories I have from this place and this organization and being on the field with these guys – they’ll never go away. ”
Kuechly leaves the league as one of the best linebackers in recent memory. The passionate playmaker was selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Panthers and has cemented himself as one of the best defensive players in the history of the franchise.
Kuechly finishes his career with 1,092 tackles, 18 interceptions and 75 tackles for loss.
The seven time Pro Bowler, has led the league in tackles since he was drafted and ranks in the top 5 among all linebackers in tackles for loss since his arrival in the league.
Kuechly’s Injury History
“In my heart I know it’s the right thing to do,” said Kuechly. “There’s only one way to play this game since I was a kid — play fast, play physical and play strong. And at this point I don’t know if I’m able to do that anymore.”
Kuechly has had a significant history with injuries since he entered the league. During the 2015 season he suffered a grade 2 concussion and a torn labrum. In 2016 he suffered a grade 3 concussion and in 2017 the linebacker suffered another concussion.
Kuechly’s toughness was one of the main attributes that allowed him to be successful. The linebacker’s warrior mentality helped lead the Panthers to three division titles and a trip to the Super Bowl in 2015.
However, like a few other players, the rigors of the NFL have taken its toll on Kuechly. The Panthers’ star exits the game early almost similar to his peer Andrew Luck who announced his retirement before the 2019 season.
Luck also entered the league in 2012 and was the first overall pick in the same draft class as Kuechly.
“It’s never the right time to step away but now is the right time for me, ” said Kuechly. “It’s hard but I hope to still be involved in some way–I still want to play but I don’t think it’s the right decision.”