CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Carolina Panthers’ linebacker Luke Kuechly is retiring from the NFL. He announced the decision in this emotional video.
In it, he explains that he loves the game and still wants to play, but he’s always played “fast, physical and strong,” and doesn’t think he can do that anymore.
So what is next for the 28-year-old? And what factors likely led to this decision?
The news that stunned many of you wasn’t as alarming to NFL Alumni International Director of Special Events Dean Dalton.
“As a fan, it’s disappointing, as a football guy, I get it," said Dalton.
Dean Dalton first played football in high school, then coached in the NFL, now helping to run the NFL’s alumni network. He’s watched Luke Kuechly play for years.
“He has what we call a high football IQ. Luke has played at a high level because he is one step ahead here *points to brain* is two with your feet and he’s always just making plays because he was a step ahead in his head, and so his performance level has been exceptional," said Dalton.
Luke’s had at least three concussions in his time playing.
“We know how to replace, you know, a hip, but we don’t know how to replace a brain," said Dalton.
Luke is just 28 years old, and while you may have been surprised scrolling your feed to see this retirement after eight years of playing, Dalton says it’s actually close to three times longer than average.
“The average career in the NFL, if you make a team, and that’s the 1 percent of the 1 percent, is less than three years, it’s 2.9 years. So they’re short careers as it is. So he’s had an extensive career by those standards," said Dalton.
Dalton works with players all the time to figure out next career steps and says for Luke’s, it could be going back to school, teaching or coaching or getting into analytics.
“If I were to give anybody advice, it would be just do what’s right for you. And in his capacity, he has all the information, you know, and he’s an intelligent person and made a sound decision that’s best for him based on the information he has," said Dalton.
Dalton acknowledged this is a big time of change for the Panthers with Coach Rivera also leaving the organization. He said these times can be two things: frustrating or energizing, and he’s recommending that fans feel energized by the possible changes to come.
Luke has been the heart of the Panthers defense since he was drafted 8 years ago in 2012. He was the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 2013.