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In an Era Full of Inflated Sports Egos, Luke Kuechly Was a Pure Football Player

FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2018, file photo, Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly chases a play during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)

Luke Kuechly

FILE – In this Aug. 9, 2018, file photo, Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly chases a play during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)

I’m not a sports writer nor do I keep up with sports stats, history, and the like. But I do like watching both college and professional sports on occasion, though I don’t keep up with my favorite teams nearly as much as I used to.

The watching of games includes tuning in to Carolina Panthers games on Sundays, in spite of the “woke culture” that has permeated the NFL over the last several years. Thankfully, former head coach Ron Rivera wasn’t a big proponent of kneeling during the anthem or related types of political protests, even though the team did bring on Colin Kaepernick’s pal Eric Reid in September 2018.

Not to be overly dramatic, but sitting through Panthers games this past season was about as enjoyable as doing your taxes. The team finished at a dismal 5-11, in last place in the NFC South.

Nevertheless, I still watched most of them for a couple of reasons. One was to see Christian McCaffrey (RB) in action, working his magic and setting records. The guy has been a joy to watch every week and his enthusiasm was contagious in what was an otherwise bleak season.

The other reason was Luke Kuechly (LB), who absolutely threw his heart and soul into every game and every play year after year, no matter how bad we were losing. To say he was in beast mode on every play would be an understatement.

Kuechly unquestionably loved the game. His whole life was football. He was also very, very good at what he did:

But this week he shocked the sports world and Charlotte, NC especially by announcing his retirement from the sport after playing all 8 years he was in the league with the Panthers.

Watch his emotional retirement speech below:

The tributes and well-wishes poured in from players and the fans, and from rival teams’ players and the sports media:

Kuechly did not act like a pampered sports prima donna when he was on the field, nor did he when he was off the field.

He came to the stadium to do a job, to do it well, and go home. He wasn’t much for frills, and didn’t care to have his name in the paper every day, but he did do a lot of good for the Charlotte community in his off time.

For people weary of the drama that has played out in the NFL over the last few years, Kuechly was a breath of fresh air. A football player’s football player. A man’s man.

He trained hard, worked hard, played hard, and earned respect – not by talking a big talk, but by walking the walk, both on and off the field.

He put a sobering face on NFL concussions after one particularly hard hit after which he left the field scared and in tears, appearing dazed:

Kuechly didn’t give any hints in his retirement announcement as to what if anything he would do career-wise going forward, but a couple of possibilities come to mind.

He could easily go the Tony Romo route and be an NFL commentator. Or he could be a defensive coach in the NFL. He’d be able to name his price. Any NFL team would be honored and eager to bring him on.

But he’s probably not thinking much about any of that right now.

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Catch you later 🎣

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He will be missed, as both a unique football player and leader in an era full of inflated sports egos. Thank you, Luke.