The Impact of Luke Kuechly’s Retirement
7 Pro Bowls
These are some of the many impressive stats of former Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. In 2012, Kuechly was drafted 9th overall out of Boston College, where he had racked up 532 tackles in 3 years. He tested very well with a 4.58 40, 38” vert, and a 123” broad jump, all of which are above the 92nd percentile. With Kuechly though, his athleticism wasn’t the main attraction. It was his mental side of the game. There were times in his NFL career where he straight up just knew the play and it was always fun to watch the cat and mouse games he’d play with upper echelon quarterbacks like Drew Brees. Kuechly is a naturally smart guy and it showed in his choice of college. His unreal mental processing on the field can also be credited to his work ethic. The man spent so much time in the film room working on the little things. This was made clear to us in the Amazon series All or Nothing. He simply just loves the game. After being the best linebacker in the league for most of his career, going to 7 Pro Bowls, and putting up some insane numbers, Luke Kuechly decided to call it quits.
The decision to retire shocked the NFL world. At 28 years old, Kuechly was still playing at the highest level for the position. In addition to being shocked about his retirement, I think we should respect his decision, and as a matter of fact, we should celebrate it in a way. Kuechly, like most NFL players, faced a very long list of injuries, including multiple head injuries. His most notable head injury was the concussion he suffered in 2016 against the Saints. Watching him leave the field in immense pain was a hard thing to see. The next season, and for the rest of his career, you could tell he was taking head injuries seriously because of the testing brace he wore around his neck. I believe this ultimately was the main reason that he decided to retire early. Kuechly joins the short list of players that have retired early because of injury. Chris Borland, Rob Gronkowski, Cavin Johnson, and most recently, Andrew Luck are all players who retired a bit prematurely, primarily due to injury. Some fans were shocked by all these players and some were upset, but I really think it is a good thing and a step in the right direction.
Mental health is uber important, more important than an NFL team’s success. We see way too many stories of former college and NFL players that deal with mental issues daily because of football. The league has tried to take the use of the head out of the game, and rightfully so, but there really is no way to avoid head injuries altogether. For these players this is their life. Football has been the main thing in their lives for as long as they can remember, so giving it up is something that must be so difficult to do. With that, there is a stereotype with the sport that players have to be “tough” and some feel they may need to push through concussions. Toughness to me is overcoming adversity in a game, practice, or whatever it may be. It’s not pushing through a serious head injury. As a Panthers fan, I salute Kuechly’s decision to retire early. It was a hard decision he had to make, but it was the right one. Because of this, he will be able to live the rest of his life without any more head issues. I hope that the early retirement of Luke Kuechly and others will help make it easier for other players to hang up the cleats when the time is right.
Luke Kuechly will be missed by Panthers fans and NFL fans in general. I’m not here to talk about whether or not he will be in the Hall of Fame or anything, but I will say he has a phenomenal resume for it. Kuechly will be a player I remember because of how good he was, both on and off the field. Echos of fans screaming his name will be with me forever.