Column: Fresh Out Of BC, Two Eagles Thrive
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Just two kids living the dream. This is what it’s all about, isn’t it?
The beauty in sports was on full display this weekend, as two former Boston College athletes made memories they will not soon forget. What’s better is that one of those guys was on campus as recently as three weeks ago, and the other just a few months ago.
First, there was the introduction of Superman to the rest of the country on Thursday in the Big Apple, as Luke Kuechly was selected ninth overall in the NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. Ninth overall. The top-10 is reserved for players who are supposed to be a staple of a franchise for the coming years, and Kuechly will undoubtedly be that for the Panthers.
It’s crazy when you actually think about it—just a semester ago, you could always find Kuechly in Yawkey, Conte, Corcoran Commons, or Bapst. Now, he’s about to move to North Carolina to become a new fan favorite on a young and exciting Panthers squad.
I watched Kuechly’s first press conference in Carolina, and it seemed as if he was still just an Eagle talking in the weekly media day sessions in Conte Forum during the fall. Except this time, the Panthers’ logo was on full display behind him, and a new and probably bigger group of reporters were picking Kuechly’s brain.
They asked him everything about his life and his football career, but his answers all revolved around the team and winning—Kuechly’s favorite speaking points. Back in August, I sat down with Luke and no matter how many personal questions I asked him, the answer always seemed to make its way back to being about the team.
That team-first mentality was on full display in Carolina, when the reporters tried to ask Kuechly about his awards and personal records. Talk about rookies. They’ll learn soon that Kuechly won’t budge on the personal achievement talk. When asked about his season-high 23-tackle game against Duke last year, he deflected.
“We didn’t win the game—that’s what matters. You can have as many tackles as you want, but if you don’t win it doesn’t matter,” Kuechly said.
Thinking the one answer was an anomaly, another reporter tried to ask how proud Kuechly was that his name was all over the BC record book.
“Football is a team game,” Kuechly responded. “I think personal records are only that—personal records. I don’t think anyone goes in to play a game with the mindset that, ‘I want to set a record.’ You want to set a team record. You’d rather go 12-0 versus 4-8 and have whatever records or win whatever awards.
“That’s kind of been my thing that I told the people in Boston, that I don’t care how many tackles I have as long as we win. And that’s been my mindset with BC—I didn’t really care about the individual awards, because you don’t get places by yourself. I think individual things are representative of the team.”
It almost seems like Kuechly has those answers pre-recorded in his head and just spits them out whenever he hears “you” in a question. Take, for example, this answer he had back in August about expectations he had for himself:
“For me, I really don’t care about numbers, stats, awards. I just want to do what I can to help the team win. That’s the biggest thing. I play football to win games. I don’t play football to set records or have certain stats. I want to play to win. Anything I can do to do that, I’ll do my best to do.”
Sounds familiar, right? Except with Kuechly, I don’t think it’s something he just spits out without meaning it. A lot of athletes can have that token answer when asked about personal achievements, but with Luke, you always get the sense that it’s genuine. No wonder Carolina took him at No. 9.
As if one big highlight wasn’t enough this weekend, another recent Eagle also lit up New York City on Saturday.
Regular-season games in the NHL? Not for Chris Kreider—he was too busy helping his team bring home a little thing called the National Championship trophy. Once all that was said and done—but not before the parade, of course—Kreider was off to New York to suit up for the team that had long coveted the speedy forward.
The Rangers are now reaping the benefits of Kreider’s play. Jumping right into the Stanley Cup playoffs, Kreider (who turns 21 today) fit right in with the first line midway through the opening series. Kreider scored his first NHL goal in Game Six of the quarterfinals, but topped that performance on Saturday in Game One of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He recorded the game-winning goal and an assist, earning the Broadway Hat. Not bad for a guy who was a junior at BC three weeks ago.