Carolina In His Mind
Kuechly Goes No. 9 Overall To Panthers
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
In Thursday’s 2012 NFL Draft, former Boston College All-American linebacker Luke Kuechly was selected by the Carolina Panthers. Kuechly was taken with the ninth overall pick in the first round of the draft. He was the first linebacker taken off the board, and the first linebacker in BC program history to be drafted in the first round.
Donnie Fletcher, after going undrafted, signed a free agent contract with the New York Jets. He made the announcement following the seventh round of Saturday’s NFL Draft.
After learning of his selection, Kuechly addressed members of the media about his new team, and his excitement at joining the professional ranks.
“I’m just so pumped up that they want me to be on their team,” Kuechly said. “It’s an honor, and now I’ve got to get down there and do what I can to contribute to the team. I’m just excited right now for the opportunity.”
Kuechly, who was expected to be drafted anywhere from the fifth pick to the end of the first round, impressed scouts and coaches everywhere with his remarkable athleticism at the NFL Combine. He will join an athletic linebacking corps that includes former first-round pick Jon Beason, James Anderson, and veteran Thomas Davis. Both Beason and Anderson are ACC alumni, playing at Miami and Virginia Tech, respectively. Davis, an eight-year veteran, is returning from his third major knee injury.
Marty Hurney, the team’s general manager, was excited to bring Kuechly in, especially after watching him during his time on the Heights.
“He’s a solid, smart, instinctive, explosive football player,” he told the media. “He’s a sideline-to-sideline tackler, just very reliable and dependable. He has great football intelligence. He gets to full speed very quickly and is a great communicator at linebacker. He’s just a very good football player.”
Hurney said that there would be no hesitation to take the winner of the Bronko Nagurski and Butkus Award winner if available.
“We knew that if he was there, he would be the option there,” Hurney said. “We had run through a lot of scenarios, and this is one of the scenarios where we were going to stick and take the player. We felt very happy that he was there.”
Carolina head coach Ron Rivera, who formerly played linebacker with the Chicago Bears, expects his new rookie to make an immediate impact on the field.
“Anytime you pick a guy at your specialty so to speak, you do get excited, and he’s a young man I was truly excited about,” Rivera said. “He’s one of those types of guys that helps make the other guys around him better.”
Kuechly’s natural athleticism and football intelligence will give the Panthers flexibility. With a number of strong veterans at linebacker, the organization will be able to utilize Kuechly in a number of spots.
“They told me to be ready to pick it up and be ready to play all three positions,” he said. “I’ve got to pick up the playbook quick and just be versatile and ready to go.”
Rivera is not ready to pencil in starters at this point, but expects all of the members of his team to compete for their spots.
“We’re going to look at it and just see how it all meshes,” he said. “We’re not going to jump to any conclusions. We’re going to put the best football players on the field, and we’re going to play them. That’s just how it’s going to be.”
Despite his role as middle linebacker for the Eagles over the last three seasons, Kuechly is willing to play wherever his coaches need him most. At this point, he’s just excited to begin working out with his new teammates and preparing for the 2012 season.
“I just love playing football,” he said. “It’s been my top priority since I started playing. I love playing football, love the mental aspects of the game and preparing for the game. It’s something I enjoy doing.”
Fletcher, who began the season as a potential third-round prospect before slowly falling in most mock drafts to a fifth or sixth round selection, went undrafted after a poor senior season. But after the final picks were made, Fletcher tweeted his free agent signing with the Jets.
None of the other declared Eagles—Ifeanyi Momah, Ryan Quigley, Lars Anderson, and Max Holloway—were drafted or have reported signing with teams as free agents.