CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly is retiring from the NFL, the Panthers announced on Tuesday night.
In a tweet from the Panthers, Kuechly revealed his decision to retire in a heartfelt announcement.
“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… There’s only one way to play this game since I was a little kid – play fast, play physical and play strong. And at this point I don’t know if I am able to do that anymore.”
In his announcement, Kuechly gave insight into why he was stepping away from the game of football.
“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. At this point, I’m not sure if I’m able to do that anymore. That’s the part that is most difficult. I still want to play, but I don’t think it’s the right decision. I’ve thought about it for a long time and I think now is an opportunity to step away with what’s going on here,” Kuechly said.
He expressed his appreciated to the fans, players and the entire Panthers organization for their support through his NFL journey.
“We have a really good linebacker room, I think Shaq and those guys are going to do a tremendous job. I just want to say thank you to the coaches, the players, the support staff, the training staff. Everybody involved in this organization has been the best from top to bottom from the day I got here,” Kuechly said. “The fans have been fantastic, they’ve supported us. They’ve traveled when we’ve been good. When we haven’t been great, they’ve been equally as supportive. That’s the best thing about this city and this town is that people love the team and people love the players. That goes a long way, because when you love the players for who they are I think it transcends the game. That’s what’s important.”
Read the full transcript of his retirement announcement here.
Kuechly just finished his eighth NFL season and is one of the most beloved players to ever wear a Carolina uniform and one of the top linebackers in the NFL
"Beyond his extraordinary performance on the field, Luke has had a tremendous impact on this organization and region," owner David Tepper said. "In my two seasons with Luke, I quickly recognized how special of a person he is. The respect he gives and garners from others as well as the positive impact he has on his peers is second to none. It's obviously going to be very difficult for all of us because we know that no player can replace what he's been for this organization for the last eight years. His presence can't be replicated."
Kuechly's resume includes seven Pro Bowl nods, seven AP All-Pro selections with five on the first team, the Defensive Player of the Year award (2013) and the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award (2012).
He finishes his career with 1,092 tackles, the most in the NFL since he entered the league. His 18 interceptions are most by a linebacker since 2012 and third-most in franchise history. His 75 tackles for loss are tied for fifth among linebackers over that span.
He was part of three Panthers teams that claimed the NFC South title (2013-15), and he helped get the Panthers to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history in 2015. He returned an interception back for a touchdown in the divisional matchup against Seattle and the conference championship game versus Arizona -- two plays that will forever live in Panthers lore.
“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.”