CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Everyone from current and former NFL players and coaches to public figures and media members spoke with love about Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly who announced that he is retiring from the NFL Tuesday night.
The announcement came through a video tweeted by the Carolina Panthers, where Kuechly made a heartfelt, touching announcement that he was moving in a different direction after eight seasons as a member of the Panthers.
“I think now is the right chance for me to move on,” Kuechly said. “It makes me sad because I love playing this game, I’ve played it since I was a kid. It’s my favorite thing 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. In my heart I know it’s the right thing to do," Kuechly said.
He ends his NFL career as one of the most beloved sports figures in Charlotte and one of the best linebackers in the league. On Tuesday night, the Carolina Panthers changed their social media profile pictures to “59” in honor of the jersey number Kuechly wore his entire career.
The city of Charlotte simply tweeted “Farewell to a legend,” as Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles followed up with “A Charlotte and Panthers legend and future Hall of Famer!”
Panthers owner David Tepper expressed his admiration and appreciation for Kuechly.
“While I wish we could have him for many more years, he has done everything the right way and we respect the decision that he’s made,” Tepper said. “Luke is a once-in-a-generation player and someone we want every member of this organization to emulate.”
Former Panthers star Thomas Davis tweeted about how proud he was of Kuechly and expressed congratulations on his retirement.
“I couldn’t be more proud to call you my brother! Congrats on a heck of a career! The game will miss you as much as you miss the game bro! I love you my brother!,” Davis said.
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, who there’s been speculation about his own retirement, tweeted of his love for Kuechly as a person, a friend and teammate.
“Words can’t describe who Luke Kuechly is as a person, friend, and teammate. We have shared countless memories together both on the field and away from it. I feel honored to be his friend and I’ll always appreciate the impact he has had on my life. Love you buddy," Olsen said.
Former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera tweeted high praise for Kuechly as a top-level linebacker and the memories shared in the years he spent with him on the Panthers.
“I will remember Luke’s sense of humor, his leadership and for being a great teammate,” Rivera tweeted.
Kuechly’s former linebacker coach Al Holcomb also tweeted with high praise Tuesday night.
“Luke was a fierce, intense competitor who loved his teammates and the game of football. A consummate pro who always believed in team first. He revolutionized the modern day standard for MLB’s. It was honor to coach him. He is the best of men on and off the field,” Holcomb tweeted.
Panthers star Christian McCaffrey tweeted about on and off the field memories with Kuechly and how he is one of the best people he has ever met.
“Thank you for some of the best memories both on and off the field. I’m so honored to have shared the field with not just the best player I’ve ever seen, but the best person I’ve ever met. Will always love you bro! To retirement,” McCaffrey tweeted.
Other current and former Panthers who tweeted about Kuechly include DJ Moore, Tre Boston, Eric Reid, Torrey Smith, Jonathan Stewart, Trai Turner, Mario Addison and more.
Opposing players and teams also praised Kuechly Tuesday night. The rival Atlanta Falcons being one of them.
“Incredible player and person, The game is going to miss you brother,” Texas star JJ Watt tweeted.
“Luke doesn’t even have social media he is that different. I have to see him soon in person and pay my respect always fun to play against. Meetings were always a little longer, and gameplans a little more complex. He kept you honest,” Saints star wide receiver Michael Thomas said.
Other players and legends tweeted about Kuechly including Ronnie Lott, Kwon Alexander, Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster.
WBTV’s Jamie Boll also tweeted a memory of Kuechly.
“I’m guessing a lot of people have pictures like this with Luke Kuechly. Always gracious. This was with my son a couple nights before a state championship game in 2014. Luke stopped by team dinner to give a pep talk. Class act. Hope he stays in Charlotte,” Boll tweeted.
WBTV’s Steve Ohnesorge also tweeted about Luke Tuesday night.