SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Luke Kuechly is often compared to one of the players he idolized growing up – Bears great Brian Urlacher, who was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
Head coach Ron Rivera, who coached Urlacher in Chicago, and tight end Greg Olsen, who played with Urlacher in Chicago, made the trip to Canton to support him on his big night (former Bear and soon-to-be Hall of Famer Julius Peppers also made the trip).
Rivera and Olsen are uniquely qualified to compare Urlacher and Kuechly, undoubtedly two of the best to ever play the middle linebacker position.
"They've both accomplished so much – both being defensive player of the year and both being rookie of the year," Olsen said. "They're more than just tacklers. That's what was awesome about Brian and now obviously with Luke. Interceptions, fumbles, sacks; there's a lot of linebackers that make a lot of tackles, but I think Luke – like Brian – can impact the game a lot more than just that. That's what separates them."
Rivera, a former NFL linebacker himself, acknowledged that it's difficult to compare players from different eras. But he sees the similarities, and not just with Urlacher.
"I do see a lot of traits that Luke shares (with Urlacher). I see a lot of traits he shares with (Mike) Singeltary as well," Rivera said. "Luke is one of those guys that fits right into that category.
"Hopefully Luke can continue and have a nice healthy, long career."
And if that's the case, Kuechly will one day have his own special night in Canton.