Sports, Football

Kuechly Tackles Challenges As A Freshman

He’s the student that lives in Fitzpatrick, struggles with laundry, and worries about his business classes. While it may sound like it, he is actually anything but your average Carroll School of Management freshman.

His name is Luke Kuechly, and it just so happens that among the daily routine of every other freshman, he finds time to lead the Boston College football team with 94 tackles. Fresh off of his first collegiate interception against Central Michigan, he was also just named ACC Defensive Back of the Week. That is an impressive feat for a freshman linebacker who says his expectations for the season were just “to come in, work hard, and see where it put me.” But amid all of his personal success, Kuechly still points to his team first and foremost.

“I’ve had a lot of help getting here,” Kuechly says. “I don’t think I would be here if [the upperclassmen] weren’t so helpful.”

It’s also that dynamic team chemistry that draws the humble Cincinnati native to the game of football.

“I like the team aspect more than anything,” Kuechly says. “You’re with these guys pretty much all year round, and then you have to come together with a common goal: win that game on that day.”

Kuechly, who is averaging 10.4 tackles per game, which places him second among all ACC players, has been a great key to the Eagles’ success this season. As with the Central Michigan game, when his interception sealed the win, Kuechly has often found himself in great position to help the team win games.

Initially though, Kuechly never thought that he would be put in such an important starting role. But after linebacker Mark Herzlich was forced to sit out the season due to his battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, and senior linebacker Mike McLaughlin was sidelined early in the year due to injury, a starting spot suddenly opened up for Kuechly.

“I didn’t expect it,” he says. “So when I got out there for the first game, it was surreal. It was like, ‘Wow, this is college football.'”

To get to that point, though, Kuechly will be the first to admit that it took a lot of work and a lot of help from his teammates. Particularly the sidelined McLaughlin, who took on the role of mentor for Kuechly.

“During the summer, I tried to watch and figure things out, but I didn’t really know what was going on,” Kuechly says. “But then afterwards I would always go in and watch film with Mac, and he would always go over one defense and he would show me how to play things.”

The entire season has been a transformative process, as Kuechly continues to move away from his high school football mentality and to the day-in and day-out rigors of the college game.

“The game now is a lot more mental,” Kuechly says. “Whereas in high school you could just kind of react, now you have to be aware what [opponents are] going to do.”

While the veterans on the team have helped Kuechly to break down film and dissect opposing offenses, he points to the coaches as unsung heroes in the development of his skills.

“The one thing that probably goes unnoticed is how much the coaches help us,” he says. “They do a good job of putting us in the situations that we need to be in for certain plays.”

The BC coaching staff is not the first to have a profound effect on Kuechly. He also described his high school experience as highly influential to his development, not only as a football player, but more importantly, as a person.

“My high school coach really helped me to become who I am today,” he says. “He was the type of guy that shaped you as a person more than a football player. Obviously football is important, but he was more concerned with you as a person.”

This attitude certainly showed in sitting down to talk with the well-spoken Kuechly, who is all about dedication to his team and coaches first and foremost. For him, personal accolades come in at a distant second.

So when asked about his ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors, it’s no surprise he responded quickly, saying, “It was definitely neat.” He then moved back to a discussion based on his teammates and what they did to help him win the award.

Before all of his success at BC, though, Kuechly had a decision to make between which football program to join. He ultimately chose the Eagles over the likes of Stanford, Duke, and Virginia. Coming from a Jesuit high school, St. Xavier, influenced his decision to come play for BC, he says. Junior defensive end Alex Albright, who also went to St. Xavier, added an element of familiarity that attracted Kuechly to the program.

“Out of the four schools, it was where I felt most comfortable at with the guys that are here, with the academics, with the size of the school, and with the religious aspect,” he says. “It kind of all came together to create what I was looking for.”

While Kuechly has become known around the ACC for his presence on the field, few know him for his love of nature off the field.

“I enjoy the outdoors,” he laughs. “I like being outside, and I enjoy camping and fishing and those sorts of things.”

What’s Kuechly’s favorite season to enjoy the outdoors? Fall, of course.

“I like the leaves changing, and it cools off a bit,” he says. More importantly, fall marks the start of football season, and that’s where Kuechly really makes his mark.


November 5, 2009

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