Luke Kuechly, one of the best linebackers in the NFL over the last decade, announced his shocking retirement on Tuesday evening. The news was announced by Kuechly in a video released by the Carolina Panthers, the only NFL team for which Kuechly suited up, on the franchise’s official Twitter account.
“In my heart, I know it’s the right thing to do.” pic.twitter.com/mSDyJ0iEMw
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 15, 2020
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play this game since I was in fourth grade, and I’ve been with the Panthers now for eight years,” Kuechly said. “It’s never the right time to step away, but now is the right time for me.”
In the video, Kuechly, who is 28 years old, spoke at length about how much he loves football and expressed the love that he has for the Panthers, which selected him with the No. 9 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He also stressed that while football is “my favorite thing in the world to do,” it has nothing to with the recent organizational changes Carolina made — Kuechly specifically stressed that he believes new head coach Matt Rhule is going to “do a fantastic job.”
“For me, now is the right opportunity to move in a different direction,” Kuechly said. “There’s only one way to play this game since I was a little kid, is to play fast, and play physical, and play strong, and at this point, I don’t know if I’m able to do that anymore.
“I still wanna play but I don’t think it’s the right decision,” an emotional Kuechly went onto say. “I’ve thought about it for a long time and I think now is an opportunity for me to step away with what’s going on here.”
Ever since entering the league, Kuechly has been among the NFL’s most imposing linebackers. He was selected to seven Pro Bowls, he’s a five-time first-team All-Pro selection, and he’s twice (including this year) been named a second-team All-Pro. In 2013, Kuechly anchored the Panther defense en route to an NFC Championship and was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.