CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTW) – In a surprise move, Carolina Panthers star linebacker Luke Kuechly, 28, announced his retirement from football Tuesday.
In a social media post by the Panthers, Kuechly announced his decision, becoming emotional during the nearly four minute video.
“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.”
He thanked the many players and coaches and others who helped him become successful over the years in the National Football League.
“It’s hard, but I hope to still be involved in some way,” Kuechly said. “The biggest thing right now is to thank the people that helped get me there from the coaches and the players to Coach Rivera to Marty to Mr. Richardson for bringing me in and Mr. Tepper now.”
A transcript of his announcement can be found here.
In a press release, the Panthers called Kuechly “arguably the best linebacker in the NFL since he was a first-round pick in 2012”. The same release said he is “one of the greatest players to ever wear a Carolina uniform” and “one of the best linebackers the game has ever seen”.
Kuechly spent eight seasons with Carolina. He was named to the NFL Pro Bowl seven times, had seven AP All-Pro selections, was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, according to the Panthers.
He finished his NFL career with more than 1,000 tackles, and had the most in the league since he entered, the Panthers said late Tuesday.
Panthers owner David Tepper reacted to the news in a press release sent out by the team Tuesday.
“Beyond his extraordinary performance on the field, Luke has had a tremendous impact on this organization and region,” 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.”
Others, including teammate Greg Olsen, took to social media to react to the news.
Kuechly has had a history of head injuries and was in the concussion protocol on multiple occasions.
In October 2017, Kuechly had to be helped off the field after taking a hit to the head from a Philadelphia Eagles lineman. On the play, Kuechly’s head slammed into the lineman’s body.
In November 2016, Kuechly was hit in the back of his head near the neck and took a helmet to his chest during a game against the New Orleans Saints.
The linebacker also missed three games in 2015 with a concussion.
Count on News13 for updates.