Carolina Panthers linebacker and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly has walked away from the league as one of the top defenders of his generation. After eight memorable seasons with the Panthers, which was filled with personal honors, he has left behind a lasting legacy.
The seven-time Pro Bowler finished with 1,092 tackles and led the NFL from 2012-19. He had 18 interceptions — the most by any linebacker and it ranks third in franchise history.
The linebacker carried the Panthers' defense. The loss of Luke Kuechly is a hole that Carolina will struggle to fill.
In 2012 Kuechly became the first rookie since 2007 to lead in tackles. He led the league in tackles once again in 2014. During the Super Bowl game against the New Orleans Saints, Luke Kuechly posted a single-game record of 24 tackles.
Kuechly also had 18 interceptions between 2012 and 2019 — the most among linebackers in the league.
The seven-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time All-Pro quickly was one of the best off-ball linebackers in the NFL.
In 2016, Luke Kuechly, along with MVP Cam Newton, helped sway the Panthers towards Super Bowl 50.
An image that will forever be etched in the memories of Carolina fans is Kuechly being carried off the field in tears after suffering a brutal concussion against the New Orleans Saints in 2016.
While Kuechly has never spoken about why he was in tears that day, it has changed many perspectives for fans and shed light on the brutality in NFL football.
During Kuechly's retirement statement, he never directly mentioned concussions as the reason he was stepping away from the game, but said:
"I still want to play, but I don't think it's the right decision."
The 29-year-old did suffer three concussions in three seasons. As a linebacker, Kuechly is prone to more concussions due to repetitive tackling, especially for one of the best in the league.
The former first-round pick was one of the most versatile players to ever step onto the field. Luke Kuechly was a primal player from the first moment he stepped on to the field to the very last.