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Carolina Panthers

Kuechly more than meets the eye


CHARLOTTE - Given his studious look in street clothes, it isn't difficult to imagine Panthers first-round draft pick Luke Kuechly sitting down for a stimulating game of chess in Harvard Square, just a few subway stops from Boston College.

But when game time comes, Kuechly's glasses come off – and so do his gloves - for a violent version of speed chess where the goal is to crush your opponents rather than merely corner them.

"It's kind of a chess match within the game with them trying to get you into a formation so they can do this or that," Kuechly said Friday at Bank of America Stadium, one day after the Panthers chose the hard-hitting linebacker No. 9 in the NFL Draft. "It's fun to prepare for the game and how teams are going to attack you.

"You can be a different person when you play. You don't have to be nice. You can change your mindset a little bit. You're playing a game, so you can compete and be aggressive and have fun out there."

In Kuechly, the Panthers selected a student of the game who can also be the school bully between the white lines. He's quick on his feet but also quicker than many realize, recording a faster 40 time (4.58) at the NFL Scouting Combine than Panthers linebackers Thomas Davis and Jon Beason.

"He plays hard. He plays fast," Panthers linebackers coach Warren Belin said. "He's got a great motor and is very instinctive. He's a young man that wants to get better each and every snap.

"He's also very intelligent and has a lot of football smarts. I think it was a great pick for us."

Kuechly traveled to Charlotte on Friday morning to start getting up to speed on the challenge that lies ahead. He knows the transition from college football won't be easy, but at no point will he take it easy.


"There are a lot of areas that can be difficult. It's a new system for one, and it's going to be bigger and faster," Kuechly said. "Everyone comes in wanting to be a starter, but they've got a lot of good guys here. I've got to get in here and start working, start earning the respect of the older guys and then hopefully something good happens from there.

"You've got to be humble because you've got to start over again. You can't come in with an overly big head because you haven't done anything yet. You might have done all right in college, but moving forward it's a different level."

Kuechly dominated on the college level while becoming the first two-time, first-team All-American in the proud history of Boston College football.  He amassed 532 tackles, second in Football Bowl Subdivision history. Kuechly is the only player in the top 10 to play just three seasons and surely would have obliterated the record of 545 held by Tim McGarigle of Northwestern had he returned for his senior season.

Nearly as impressive, though, is Kuechly's take on his numbers, like when a reporter asked him Friday about his 23-tackle game last season against Duke.

"We didn't win the game – that's what matters," he said. "You can have as many tackles as you want, but if you don't win, it doesn't matter.

"Football is a team game, and personal records are only that. I don't think anybody goes into a game with the mindset of setting a personal record; you want to set a team record."

That's exactly what the Panthers were looking for in their first-round pick – a player that can help them win more right away.

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