Should he stay or should he go? Boston College football fans everywhere will ask this question in reference to star middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. As the semester comes to a close and the pressure of finals rises, rest assured that Kuechly is probably in a much more stressful situation: declaring for the spring’s NFL draft or remaining for his senior season.
There will be arguments for both sides. Some will be serious, while others will simply be biased. Regardless of your view, there are a number of factors that are certainly running through the junior’s mind.
First and foremost, Kuechly has become a nationally known player. He’s led the nation in tackles the last two seasons. He was most recently awarded the Lombardi Award, in addition to the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and the Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s top linebacker. To add to this excitement, Dick Butkus, for whom the award is named after, was there to present Kuechly with the trophy. “Boy Wonder,” as his coaches have been known to call him, has earned numerous individual accolades, and made himself a premier defender.
Money. We all want it, but we can’t all have it. Kuechly, as a certain first-round pick, is in a position to make bank in the draft. This is clearly a major factor in his decision, and it definitely should be. Players can take care of themselves and their families with the paycheck of a high draft position, and how can a player turn down such an opportunity? What if Kuechly tears up his knee or breaks an arm? He could go from a near certain top-20 pick to a third rounder, or worse an undrafted free agent. Not declaring for the draft may cost him millions of dollars.
While this last idea might seem like a stretch, it was a reality on the Heights over the last few years. Former BC linebacker Mark Herzlich saw his draft position collapse before his eyes. After receiving the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award, Herzlich was viewed as a top pick in the draft. However, the discovery of Ewing’s sarcoma in his leg put a sudden halt to an all but certain professional career.
Although Kuechly is not in the same exact situation, he has seen firsthand the fragility of a playing career. It’s impossible to predict a detrimental injury, and Kuechly could risk the chance of losing his draft status. Herzlich went undrafted and found himself floundering until free agency opened. While he ended up finding a home with the New York Giants, the stress of going from a top-round pick to a jobless free agent was certainly a disheartening process.
Kuechly has the luxury of avoiding the fear of struggling to find a home. He has a golden ticket into the league and can use this to put himself on an NFL roster immediately.
I couldn’t blame Kuechly for leaving after seeing his teammate, friend, and mentor fall from the pinnacle of the draft. At the same, if there’s one thing Herzlich showed his teammates, it was determination and perseverance. Kuechly, recently awarded the William J. Flynn Award for team MVP, could not be pleased with ending his Eagle career on such a sour note. This was his team. He was the face of the program, and the program had its worst season in over a decade. He could not want his legacy to end like this.
Kuechly has been a leader for this defense, and he may see the culmination of his hard work next season. Fellow linebackers Steele Divitto and Kevin Pierre-Louis have had the privilege of playing with one of the top defensive players in collegiate history. The defense, as a whole, has grown from his play, and he would have the satisfaction of seeing his efforts played out if he stays one more year.
Even more so, with Kuechly’s potentially high draft status, the linebacker could end up being drafted by one of the NFL’s worst teams. Who knows how long it could take for him to play for a winning team. If he had one more chance to win a bowl game, or even just play for a winning season, Kuechly could solidify himself as a winner. While his stats are record-breaking, teams may be more excited to draft him if they feel he is the kind of game-changer that can determine the outcome of a game.
The question is which of these factors is influencing Kuechly’s final decision the most. With the holidays approaching, he’ll surely take the free time to sit down with his family and contemplate all of the scenarios that have been mentioned above, and maybe a few more personal ones. At the end of the day, Superfans will definitely look back on Kuechly with a positive attitude. If we weren’t proud of his efforts and performance over the last three years, we wouldn’t be debating whether or not he should stay or leave. While we want to see him pursue a professional career and continue his success, we simultaneously and selfishly want him to stay so that we might have one more year of “Boy Wonder.”
Time will tell, but, regardless of his decision, he’s done one memorable job.